HDB investigating BTO flats being sold after being left vacant for years; 53 cases since 2017

SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) is investigating cases of Build-to-Order (BTO) flats being put up for sale after they were left vacant for years.

Between 2017 and November this year, HDB has taken enforcement action against 53 cases where flat owners did not occupy their flats during the minimum occupation period (MOP), the Housing Board said on Thursday (Dec 22).

Of these, 21 cases involved HDB taking back the flats, with the rest being issued fines or warnings.

In response to CNA’s queries, HDB said it is aware of property listings of “vacant” BTO flats being sold on the open market.

“This includes the cases mentioned in recent media reports, some of which have already been under investigation at the time of media’s reporting,” it said.

Reports this week showed a BTO flat in Yishun being put up for sale after being left vacant for eight years. There were also reports of other empty BTO flats that appear to have never been lived in being listed for sale on property portals.

According to HDB’s MOP rules, owners are required to live in the BTO flat before they can sell it on the open market.

During the MOP, owners are not allowed to sell or rent out the whole flat, or buy a private home. This applies to flats bought from HDB or on the resale market.

HDB said it carries out about 500 inspections per month to detect violations of housing rules, such as illegal flat rentals.

Should it receive feedback on suspected cases of violations, such as flats being listed for sale without being occupied by their owners, investigations will be carried out.

On Monday, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said he was asked if a family can buy a BTO flat and not live in it for five years before selling it as “almost brand new” on the resale market.

“The answer is no. A BTO flat must be owner-occupied for the full MOP period. If the owners are unable to fulfil the MOP, then the flat needs to be returned to HDB,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

“HDB will then put up as a balance flat for other home buyers to apply for.”


If investigations conclude that a flat was not owner-occupied during the MOP, HDB may “compulsorily acquire” the flat, impose a financial penalty of up to S$50,000 or issue written warnings.

Flats that are compulsorily acquired by HDB under these circumstances will also be put up for sale as sale of balance flats.