Can Divorcees Buy or Rent HDB Flats, and How?
In a land-scarce Singapore with soaring property prices, many considering a divorce may wonder what would happen to the matrimonial home after the divorce.
For a start, both parties have the liberty to discuss and agree on what should happen to the house after a divorce. Some options that both of you might agree on include:
- Having one spouse agree to transfer their interest in the property to the other spouse to allow the other spouse to keep the flat.
- Selling the property and splitting the proceeds between both of you in certain proportions.
Any decision on the matrimonial home that both of you manage to make will be recorded in a court judgment during an ancillary matters hearing.
However, if both of you are unable to come to a decision, the court will decide what would happen to the house when dividing the matrimonial assets. This may include the order of any one of the options above.
In any event, it is important to consider the housing options available to you if you are not able to keep the house.
This article will discuss the various HDB housing schemes and grants that may be applicable to you as a divorcee, as well as other alternative housing arrangements you may seek after a divorce.
Housing Schemes Available to Divorcees
Since March 2018, divorcees can purchase or own a subsidised flat immediately upon ending their marriage. This is subject to the condition of fulfilling the eligibility criteria of purchasing such flats. Thus, you may consider either purchasing a new BTO flat under the Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers (ASSIST) or a resale flat.
You may also apply for the relevant housing grants or, alternatively, consider renting a flat if you face financial constraints in purchasing a new BTO flat under ASSIST or if you do not satisfy the eligibility criteria for the scheme. Interim housing options are also available while waiting for your BTO flat. All of these will be discussed in greater detail below.
Purchasing a BTO flat under the ASSIST Scheme
The ASSIST scheme enhances divorced parents’ chances of obtaining a BTO flat in the computer balloting exercise that the Housing Development Board (HDB) conducts for flat applications. This is because up to 5% of 2-room Flexi and 3-room BTO flats in non-mature estates are set aside for applicants under this scheme during sale launches.
Additionally, if you are a first-time applicant for a BTO unit, you will also have 2 ballot chances, one more than second-timers.
Do note that HDB cannot guarantee a 100% success in your chances of obtaining a flat. However, should you be unsuccessful for two or more applications as a first-timer applicant for BTO sales launches in non-mature estates, you will obtain one additional ballot chance per subsequent application.
Eligibility criteria under ASSIST
To qualify for the scheme, you:
- Must have at least one biological child of the marriage or adopted child aged 18 years and below; and
- Must not have acquired any interest in an HDB flat or private residential property (except for your matrimonial flat/property) after the date of your divorce.
There is no age criterion to be fulfilled to be eligible for this scheme.
However, as seen from the above two criteria, you must have custody of your child to qualify for this scheme. Accordingly, you would not qualify for this scheme if you do not have a child from your marriage or custody of such children.
Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PHHS)
While waiting for your BTO flat to be ready, you may rent a 3-room or 4-room flat under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS) to live in if you have no other housing options in the meantime.
To qualify for the PPHS, all the conditions below have to be met:
- You are a Singapore citizen and have another Singapore citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident in your household;
- You and the occupiers of the PPHS flat do not own an existing HDB flat. If any of you currently co-own an HDB flat with your parents and/or siblings (who are not listed in your sales application), you can apply for PPHS and then surrender ownership of that co-owned flat within 6 months of taking possession of the PPHS flat;
- You and the other applicants for the PPHS flat are listed in the sales application. However, do note that you can only be listed in one PPHS application within the same month; and
- If you are sharing the PPHS flat with another eligible household, the maximum number of occupants must not exceed 6 occupants in either the rented 3-room or 4-room PPHS flat. This is unless the additional occupiers are s from marriage or new births.
Purchasing a Resale Flat
In the alternative, you may purchase a resale flat. This is an option that will be available to you regardless of whether you have custody of your child.
Eligibility criteria to purchase a resale flat
Different criteria may apply depending on the type of scheme you are purchasing a resale flat under. However, if you are a divorcee purchasing a resale flat under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme, you would have to fulfil the following criteria:
- You must be a Singapore citizen
- You are at least 35 years old
- If you require a housing loan, you must have obtained an HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) Letter if you take a HDB loan or a Letter of Offer if you take a housing loan from the bank
- You are able to meet the requirements of the Ethnic Integration Policy and Singapore Permanent Resident Quota Policy on the date of the resale application which you may check here
Conditions to take note of after buying the resale flat
There are several conditions to take note of after purchasing a resale flat. Of particular interest is the condition of having to dispose of any interest or ownership in any private residential property within 6 months of buying the resale flat.
Thus, if your matrimonial home is a private residential property, you will have to dispose of your interest or ownership in that property within 6 months of you buying the resale flat.
Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) (Singles)
If you are buying an HDB flat for the first time and have not received any housing grant previously, you may be eligible to receive an Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) (Singles) of up to $40,000 when you purchase a new flat.
The EHG (Singles) is applicable for those buying one of the following:
- A 2-room Flexi BTO flat on 99-year leases in a non-mature estate
- A 2-room Flexi BTO flats on a short lease
- A resale flat (up to 5-room under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme, and all resale flats under the Joint Singles Scheme).
You must satisfy the following criteria to be eligible for the EHG (Singles):
- Your average gross monthly household income for the 12 months before the flat application does not exceed $4,500
- You and all other co-applicants and essential occupiers are all first-timers. (Eligible parents/children who are first-timer applicants and who are buying a resale flat with their children/parents who are second-timers, or have already taken 2 housing subsidies, will also qualify for the EHG)
- You have worked continuously for 12 months before the flat application and are still working at the time you submit the flat application
- There must be at least 20 years left to the lease. The flat must also have sufficient lease to cover the youngest buyer to the age of 95 to qualify for the full grant. Otherwise, the grant will be pro-rated
- You and other flat applicants must not own or dispose of any of the following properties in the 30 months before the new flat application:
- Private residential property (including privatised HUDC flats and ECs)
If you satisfy all the criteria, you will qualify for the grant. The EHG grant amount is capped at $40,000 with the exact amount you can obtain being dependent on the following:
- The average gross monthly household income for the months worked in a 12-month period prior to the date of your flat application; and
- The incomes of all working persons in the household (the applicants and the occupiers) are included in the assessment. Thus, families with lower household incomes will receive a larger grant amount.
For an example of how the EHG will be calculated, please refer to this HDB webpage.
(If you are intending to purchase a new BTO flat under ASSIST) Staggered Downpayment Scheme
If you face financial constraints in paying the downpayment of your new BTO flat, you may rely on the Staggered Downpayment Scheme to pay your downpayment in 2 instalments.
Half of the down payment is paid when you sign the Agreement for Lease, which is usually done within 4 months of booking a flat. The remaining amount is paid when you collect the key for your new flat. Please refer to Payment Structure for the exact payment structure under the scheme.
To qualify for the scheme, you must:
- Have bought an uncompleted 2- or 3-room flat in a non-mature estate under the HDB’s sales launches. You will satisfy this criterion if you managed to successfully ballot for a 3- room flat under the ASSIST scheme.
- Have not sold the existing flat, or the sale of the existing flat has yet to be legally completed at the point of the new flat application. This criterion will be satisfied if the sale of the matrimonial home is still pending at the time you apply for a new BTO flat under the ASSIST scheme.
(If you are intending to purchase a HDB resale flat) Proximity Housing Grant
You may also qualify for the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) if you purchase an HDB resale flat to live with your parents or children, or within 4km of their HDB flat or private residential property. However, you will only be eligible for this grant if you have not received the PHG previously.
There are 2 different categories that you may qualify for under this scheme: Family and Singles. The actual grant amount that you can receive will depend on the category that you are applying for, as well as your living arrangements in the flat.
If you have custody of your children, you may be eligible under the Family category if you are:
- A Singapore Citizen;
- Above 21; and
- Applying with the children under your legal custody and care and control. If the care and control of any child under 21 is shared with the ex-spouse, you must obtain your ex-spouse’s written agreement before you can list the child in the flat application.
Depending on your living arrangements, there will be 2 different grant amounts that you may be eligible to receive under this category:
- If you decide to live with your parents, or with your children that you have custody of, you will be able to obtain up to $30,000 of the grant; or
- If you decide to live within 4km from your parents or your children (who are either married, or above 35 if they are single) who are not living with you, you will be able to obtain up to $20.000 of the grant.
If you are divorced with no children or do not have custody of your children, you may apply under the Singles category if you are above 35 and applying for the resale flat under any of the following schemes:
- Single Singapore Citizen Scheme
- Joint Singles Scheme
- Public Scheme (if parents are included in the resale application as co-applicants or occupants)
Depending on your living arrangements, there will be 2 different grant amounts that you may be eligible to receive under this category:
- If you decide to live with your parents, you will be able to obtain up to $15,000 of the grant; or
- If you decide to live within 4km from your parents or your children (who are either married, or above 35 if they are single), you will be able to obtain up to $10,000 of the grant.
Additional requirements for both the Family and Singles categories
Additional requirements that apply to both categories include:
- At least one of your parents or children helping to qualify for the scheme must be a Singapore Permanent Resident
- If you are buying a resale flat to live near your parents or children who are living in a private residential property, but they do not own that private residential property, that property has to be owned by their immediate family members (i.e. their parents, parents-in-law, children and siblings)
- The resale flat you intend to purchase must have at least 20 years left on its lease
Renting a Flat
You may also consider renting a subsidised flat under the Public Rental Scheme if you are unable to either purchase a resale flat, or a BTO flat under the ASSIST scheme.
The Public Rental Scheme can be further divided into the Family Scheme or the Joint Singles Scheme.
To qualify for the Family scheme, you must satisfy the following criteria:
- You must be a Singapore Citizen
- You must form a family nucleus with at least another Singapore Citizen or a Singapore Permanent Resident comprising of:
- You and your parents that you intend to live with, if you do not have custody of any child from your marriage; or
- You and your children whom you have legal custody and care and control of. If your children are under 21 and care and control of them are shared with your ex-spouse, his or her written agreement must be obtained before you can list your children in the flat application.
Joint Singles Scheme
If you do not have any children from your marriage or have custody of your children, you may be instead eligible under the Joint Singles Scheme. You will have to satisfy the following criteria:
- You do not intend to stay with your parents.
- Both you and the other listed occupiers must be Singapore Citizens
- If you are renting the flat with somebody else, both you and the other occupier must be single.
- You would be considered single if you are divorced o and at least 35 years old. The other occupier would be considered single if the occupier is unmarried and at least 35 years old; at least 35 years old and divorced or legally separated from his or her spouse with legal documents supporting the separation; or widowed or orphaned (and at least 1 parent was a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent resident)
- The total household gross income should not exceed $1,500 per month. Nonetheless, even if the monthly household income does exceed $1,500, you can still submit your application for consideration.
- You and the listed occupiers should not be existing tenants or essential occupiers of an HDB flat
- You and your occupiers should not own:
- Or have an estate or interest in such property at the point of application;
- An HDB flat or Design, Build & Sell Scheme;
- A local or overseas private property, residential or otherwise
- An Executive Condominium
As seen from above, divorce may have a significant impact on your future living arrangements. Hence, it is important that you have a clear idea of the implications of going ahead with the divorce before deciding whether to do so.
You can do so by consulting a divorce lawyer who can best advise you on your options regarding the arrangements for your matrimonial home after your divorce as well as any child custody arrangements. Consequently, you will be able to make better decisions for your future living arrangements as well.
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