HDB flat owners who desire to relinquish their possession in favour of another family member are not any longer permitted to do so, except on certain reasons, reported The Straits Times.
Under the new rules which came into force last month, transfer of ownership is only allowed for divorce, marriage, medical reasons, death of an owner, financial adversity and renunciation of citizenship, said an HDB spokeswoman.
It covers those who are terminally ill who wish to bequeath their flat, as good as those who require help from other family members to pay off the home loan. Those falling outside the aforementioned circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis, she added.
Previously, owners could freely transfer their unit to their spouse or an immediate family member, and many did so to avoid paying the seven percent Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) when buying a second home in Singapore.
Based on experts, this is a common industry practice called ‘decoupling ’, whereby one partner surrenders her or his co-owner standing to become an authorised occupier of the flat.
“Agents were going around teaching people the best way to do this and it was all above board,” noted Chris Koh, Director of property agency Chris International, Parc Riviera Condo
The practice became even more widespread after January 2013, when the ABSD was visited on second-time home buyers, Treasure Crest in a bid to control increasing property prices.
Between 2012 and 2015, the Housing Board approved an average of around 6,000 possession transfers a year. The most common reasons were death of an owner, marriage, divorce and financial adversity.