How to Apply for Change of Use of Property (URA and HDB)

Last updated on October 1, 2021

businessmen and woman in empty office space

You may be a business owner looking to set up a restaurant or a commercial school in a particular premises that you think is ideal in terms of the location and size.

You may also have spoken to the landlord in hopes of renting or buying the place and starting to renovate it to fit your business needs. Alternatively, you may wish to lease your office premises to someone who plans to turn it into a pet shop.

Before you decide to buy or lease a premises, you should be aware of what you can or cannot do with the premises as each premises has its own intended and allowable uses. If the premises’ existing allowable use isn’t the same as what you intend to use it for, you may have to apply for change of use of property.

This article will help you understand:

What Does It Mean to Change the Use of Property?

In Singapore, every premises is approved for a specific use. These uses are categorised into business uses based on their mode of operation and potential impact on the amenity of the neighbourhood. Building uses with similar modes of operation or impacts on surroundings are grouped in the same Use Class.

Changing an approved use of a premises to another may cause amenity issues to neighbouring premises in the area. For instance, converting a restaurant to a nightclub may cause disturbances, such as noise and vibration, to the neighbouring premises. Moreover, a nightclub may not fall under the Use Class that the property currently holds.

In such circumstances, you may be required to obtain planning permission first. Planning permission or planning authorisation is approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) or the Housing Development Board (HDB), respectively, for a person in Singapore to carry out any development and building works, including changing the use of premises. An application for planning permission or planning authorisation forms part of the application for the change of use of property.

Depending on whether the property is under the purview of URA or HDB, the relevant government authority will assess if the intended new use is both compatible and acceptable with the use of premises, before allowing you to change the use of your property. You are not allowed to become a tenant or start on renovation works on the premises until you are granted planning permission for change of use at the subject premises.

How Do You Know Whether You Need to Apply for Such Change of Use?

First, you need to determine if the intended property is a HDB shophouse or non-HDB property.

For HDB shophouses or commercial units, applying for change of use is a must even if your intended use of the property is allowed by the authorities. Before applying however, you should first check whether your intended use of the property is allowed.

Examples of allowed uses of HDB shophouses and commercial units may be found on list of allowable trades on the HDB website. In addition, if the HDB commercial unit has residential living quarters, a proposed use of the living quarters will be allowed if it does not fall within the URA’s List of Non-Allowable Uses.

Examples of non-allowable uses are restaurants, warehouses, places of worship and funeral parlours. Such uses are disallowed as they may disrupt the living conditions of residents.

On the other hand, examples of allowed uses of HDB living quarters are shops, clinics, offices, tuition centres, childcare centres and gyms.

If the property is non-HDB and is a private shophouse unit, you can obtain information on the approved use of the premises at URA SPACE to see if your intended use of the property has been pre-approved. Sometimes, the property you are planning to buy or lease could already be pre-approved for multiple uses and so you might not have to seek approval from URA.

You can also check at the URA website whether you need planning permission to conduct your business at the subject premises. For example, if you were planning to use a particular premises as a place of business for your real estate company, you would need planning permission for change of use if the subject premises was a Sports Recreation Building. On the other hand, no such planning permission is required where the property is considered to be HDB Commercial Premises. However, you may still need to obtain HDB’s consent for the use.

Alternatively, you can also submit an enquiry to URA to determine the approved uses at a search fee of $53.50 per enquiry.

If you are required to apply for a change of use but fail to do so you may be guilty of an offence under section 12 of the Planning Act for unauthorised development. A first-time offender who carries out development without planning permission may be fined up to $200,000, and a further fine of up to $10,000 for each day that the offence continues after conviction.

Who is Responsible for Applying for the Change of Use?

Generally, either the owner of the premises, the prospective tenant or their appointed agents may apply for the change of use of property.

If the tenant or the appointed agent is making the application, he/she must obtain the prior consent of the property owner in writing. The applicant also has to declare that the owner’s consent has been obtained in the application form.

How to Apply for Change of Use

If the property is a HDB shophouse or commercial unit

For changing the use of a HDB shophouse or commercial unit, you are required to submit an “Application for Changes (HDB Commercial Properties)” at the GoBusiness Licensing website which involves a change in the trade that is being provided, e.g. a change from selling books to becoming a beauty salon.

You will also need to read through the Terms Conditions for Application for Changes, and refer to the GoBusiness Licensing page for the relevant list of documents required. Such documents may include a copy of your NRIC and for companies, the Company’s or Director’s Resolution.

Generally, the processing time frame of your application should be within 1 to 14 days upon HDB’s verification of the information as stated in the online application and receipt of supporting documents. If the proposed trade falls within HDB’s list of allowable trades, interested tenants can obtain a 1-day approval for change of trade.

There is a non-refundable administrative fee (GST included) of $107 or $214 depending on the type of application. The exact amount would be indicated to you in your online application.

If the property is a HDB commercial unit with living quarters

You can similarly make an “Application for Changes (HDB Commercial Properties)” at the GoBusiness Licensing website to change the use of living quarters within HDB commercial units. There is a non-refundable processing fee of $214 (GST included).

If the property is in a HDB shopping or office complex

For units in HDB shopping and office complexes, you should approach your Managing Agent to apply for the change of use.

If the property is a non-HDB property

You can submit your “Change of Use Approval” application for non-HDB property via the GoBusiness Licensing portal.

The processing fee for a change of use application is $535 (GST included) and it is non-refundable.

It will take approximately 10 working days for your application to be assessed. More time may be needed if your application is incomplete or, if in addition to planning and land use considerations, URA also has to consult other agencies to ensure the proposed use of premises can meet their requirements.

The documents required for a change of use application are as follows:

  • Location Plan – For multi-unit developments (e.g. shopping centre, flatted factory), you are to attach a location plan indicating the location of your premises
  • Floor Plan – A floor plan showing the proposed layout and usage of the premises
  • Landowner’s Consent – If the premises are being leased from the Singapore Land Authority, Housing Development Board of Jurong Town Corporation, you are to attach their letter of consent as the landowner
  • Other supporting documents (if applicable) – These include a cover letter and clearances from other government agencies (e.g. SCDF, LTA, NEA, PUB) relevant to your proposed use

You can submit the required documents when you make the change of use application online. Alternatively, you can choose to submit the documents via email.

Change of Use Lodgment 

Another scheme to consider is the Change of Use Lodgment scheme. This scheme allows certain uses within selected buildings to be lodged or filed with URA and receive instant approval.

The Change of Use Lodgment applies only to selected uses in certain commercial buildings, and on the first storeys of shophouses on sites zoned as Commercial, Commercial Residential or White in the Master Plan. Furthermore, the proposal must also fulfil all conditions for lodgment.

If the proposal complies with a set of lodgment criteria and the use is lodged successfully, the change of use will be deemed authorised. However, if your proposed use does not qualify under the Lodgment scheme, you will have to submit a planning application through the change of use application as discussed above.

The processing fee for a change of use lodgment is $160.50 (GST included). You will receive instant approval once you submit the lodgment, and an acknowledgement slip will be sent to your email address within the same day.

After Successfully Applying for Change of Use

After successful application for change of use, you will need to renew your application if you have been granted only Temporary Permission from URA. If so, you are required to submit a renewal of use application within 2 months before the expiry of the Temporary Permission via the GoBusiness Licensing portal. The processing fee for the renewal of Temporary Permission is $535 (GST included) and is non-refundable.

The approval for the change of use is tied to the subject premises and not to the tenant or the owner of the property. Therefore, if you were to give up the property in the future, you do not have to apply to change its use back to what it originally was. If the new tenant of the property wishes to change the use of the property, then they may apply for the change themselves.

We hope this article has helped you understand what change of use is, whether you need to apply for change of use, the process of application for both HDB and non-HDB properties, as well as what you may need to do after a successful application.

If you need any assistance with applying for change of use, or any other business-related services, you are encouraged to reach out to a corporate services provider. A corporate services provider would be able to take care of all the necessary applications and this could reduce the workload of having to make the applications for change of use yourself.

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