Published Date: 12 Mar 2015
On behalf of the Minister for National Development, Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee introduced the Housing and Development (Amendment) Bill 2015 for first reading in Parliament today. These amendments will empower and enable HDB to do more to help residents and to better administer its rules and regulations; and thus create a safer and more pleasant living environment for HDB residents.
2 The key features of the Housing and Development (Amendment) Bill 2015 are as follows:
(a) Power of Entry for Investigation & Urgent Repairs
From time to time, HDB receives feedback that needs investigations and repairs. One example would be ceiling leaks, where the cooperation of the flat-owner in the upper floor to carry out repairs is needed, in order to resolve the difficulties faced by the flat-owner in the lower floor that suffers the ceiling leak. While most of these cases are resolved amicably, the resolution of a proportion of such cases can be protracted. Hence, HDB tries to assist the flat owners to ensure that repairs to the upper floor unit are done without delay. However, if the flat owners persistently refuse to allow entry by HDB to the flat to investigate and carry out repairs, HDB will have no choice but to proceed to obtain a court order to enter the flat as a last resort. This inadvertently delays the repair works and prolongs the inconvenience to residents
The Bill proposes to give HDB the power to enter a flat to carry out investigation and urgent repairs in two ways:
- With a court warrant - HDB will obtain a court warrant to enter the flat should the owners ignore a 24-hour notice period and not allow HDB to enter the flat. The warrant gives HDB the right of forced entry into the flat for investigation and urgent repair works (e.g. to fix urgent ceiling leaks).
- Without a court warrant - HDB will exercise right of entry into the flat, where there is an imminent danger affecting public safety or public health in the area (e.g. hacking of structural beams) which may affect the structural integrity of the building and the safety of the residents).
(b) Increase Fines for Unauthorised Renovation & imposition of financial penalties
HDB flat owners can only engage a Registered Renovation Contractor (RRC) for renovation works inside their flat. Renovation Contractors must be registered with HDB first before they can be engaged by flat owners. This is to ensure that they are familiar with HDB structures and will not inadvertently damage the building and affect its structural integrity while carrying out renovation works. Both the flat owners and RRCs must comply with the terms and conditions of any approval granted by HDB.
The H & D (Renovation Control) Rules regulates the carrying out of renovations in HDB flats. For more effective deterrence, the Bill proposes to increase the maximum court fine against errant HDB RRCs, non-RRCs and lessees from the existing $5,000 to $20,000 and/or jail term of up to one year. The Bill will also allow HDB to impose a maximum financial penalty of $10,000 on the lessee and RRC.
(c) Varying Amount of Penalty for Lease Infringement
Currently, for cases of lease infringement, such as unauthorised subletting, misuse of flats for non-residential purpose, HDB may compulsorily acquire the flat or impose a penalty on the flat owners. The quantum of penalty is currently fixed for each type of infringement.
The Bill seeks to provide HDB with calibrated levers by allowing HDB to vary the quantum to commensurate with the severity of the infringement, up to a maximum of $50,000.
(d) Increased investigation powers for HDB officers
In carrying out investigation on lease infringements, HDB officers need to enter the flats. This requires the co-operation from the flat owners, occupiers or subtenants. One of the challenges faced by HDB is their refusal to co-operate. For instance, they may turn down HDB’s requests to enter the flats, or refuse to provide written statements or furnish particulars etc. Such lack of co-operation hinders HDB’s investigation work and enforcement action against those who commit lease infringements.
The Bill seeks to give HDB officers enhanced powers of investigation, such as the following:
- To be able to enter premises with a warrant;
- To take written statements;
- To obtain photographs, audio or video recordings of the flat, if necessary; and
- To require people to provide information or documents that are relevant to the investigation
3 When enacted, these provisions will help to build a safer and more pleasant living environment for HDB residents.