What happens when your property is designated as a heritage site?

It is no secret that Singaporeans have a knack for investing in real estate and purchasing property. Many enter this race to acquire property with the intention to leave their assets to their children and future descendants. But what happens when something interferes with these plans?

In this article, we discuss what it means to you when your property is designated as a heritage site.

What is a heritage site?

Contrary to what the term suggests, the National Heritage Board (NHB) preserves a myriad of sites and monuments which have been identified as having historic, cultural, architectural, artistic or national importance.  Some examples of such preserved sites are Fort Canning Park, the old shophouses in the Katong area, St Andrew’s Cathedral and Singapore Botanical Gardens.

How are these sites selected?  

In Singapore, the preservation of such sites is under the purview of the NHB. The Board identifies sites that it deems important and worthy of preservation and makes a recommendation to the Minster of Culture, Community and Youth. The Preservation of Monuments Act outlines the functions and duties of the NHB in this regard. The general process is summarised below:

  1. NHB identifies a site that has some symbolic importance to the nation’s heritage.
  2. NHB consults the Minster to decide if the site should be preserved.
  3. On behalf of the Minister, the NHB sends a written notice to the owner and occupier of the monument and any land adjacent to it which may be affected by the preservation order, to inform them of the Minister’s intention to gazette the site.
  4. The owner may submit his objections (if any) to the preservation order. This needs to be done within in the time period stipulated in the notice.
  5. NHB reviews the objections received and makes recommendations to the Minister in relation thereto.
  6. The Minister then, makes a preservation order to place the monument under the protection of the Board.
  7. The preservation order and a notice stating its effect will be served upon the owner and the occupier of the property in question.
  8. Under the law, with regard to properties that are used as dwelling houses of the owners, the government would need to acquire the land in question within a period of 1 year. Failure to do so, means that the preservation order ceases to have effect.

Does the preservation order limit what I can do with my property?

Hence, by virtue of your property being under the preservation order, you are not allowed demolish or reconstruct the property, make renovations or redecorate the area without prior approval from the NHB. The NHB might not approve of certain proposed works if it thinks it would adversely affect the character and appearance of the national monument. Anyone who does not comply with the NHB’s rules and conditions governing such construction works will be liable to pay a fine up to $100,000 and/or a jail term.

Does the preservation order limit my rights to the property?

Having your property being gazetted as a monument will not deprive you of your legal rights to your property. Essentially, you are still the owner of the land. However, some conditions must be fulfilled when it comes to selling or transferring the property to another.

Should you decide to sell or demise such a property, you will need to inform the NHB at least 2 weeks in advance. Subsequently, you will also need to send them a notice in writing informing them of the completion of the transfer within 2 weeks of the completion. Failure to do so will also attract punishments in the form of a fine and/or imprisonment.

It is also important to inform potential buyers of your property that they will be bound by the terms and conditions of the preservation order as well.