More than 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing under the Housing and Development Board (HDB). In many divorce cases, the parties’ HDB flat is the biggest asset in the matrimonial pool of assets. Understandably, parties will be concerned about what would happen to the HDB flat in a divorce. Also, the question of where parties will live (with their children) after the divorce is also a very pressing one.
This article will focus on the question that would no doubt be on the minds of parties contemplating divorce – “Can I retain my HDB flat after a divorce?”
Should we sell the flat, or should one party retain it?
When it comes to deciding on what is to happen to the HDB flat in a divorce, the ideal situation would be where divorcing parties agree on what to do with the flat. Where the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) is met, parties may agree that the HDB flat is sold on the open market and the proceeds of the sale are split between the parties. Alternatively, parties may agree that one party’s share of the flat is transferred to the other spouse, or for one spouse to buy over the other spouse’s share in the flat. The various possibilities about the HDB flat in the event of divorce have been examined in detail in another article.
If parties are unable to agree on the HDB flat, then the Court will decide on how to divide the HDB flat. The HDB flat would be considered a matrimonial asset if acquired during the marriage, by one or both parties to the marriage. If either party acquired the HDB flat before the marriage, it might still be considered a matrimonial asset if the parties resided in the flat. It should also be noted that in some circumstances, where the HDB flat is received by way of gift or inheritance, the HDB flat may still be considered a matrimonial asset if it served as the parties’ matrimonial home. It will be observed that in most cases, the HDB flat owned by parties will be considered a matrimonial asset.
In light of the above, the divorcing parties may agree that one of the ex-spouses is to retain the flat, or the Court may order that one of the parties retain the HDB flat.
Am I eligible to retain the flat?
Even if parties agree that one ex-spouse is to retain the flat, or if the Court orders that one of the parties retain the flat, that is not the end of the matter. The party who wishes to retain the flat must still ensure that he or she is eligible to retain the HDB flat under HDB guidelines. In determining such eligibility, a few factors must be considered, such as:
Are there children to the marriage, and if so, who will the children live with?
If there are no children to the marriage, is the party who wishes to retain the HDB flat above the age of 35?
Where the party who wishes to retain the flat is the party with care and control of the child(ren) of the marriage, that party will generally be able to retain the HDB flat. However, it should be noted that in accordance with HDB’s guidelines, the divorce must not be due to non-consummation of marriage or annulment.
If there are no children to the marriage, the party who wishes to retain the HDB flat alone may do so if he or she:
Is a Singapore citizen;
Is at least 35 years old; and
Meets the prevailing conditions for the flat’s retention under the Single Singaporean Citizen Scheme (SSC Scheme).
In the alternative, where there are no children to the marriage, the party who wishes to retain the flat can also include another person to retain the flat with an eligibility scheme. Some examples of the HDB schemes are the Public Scheme and the Joint Singles Scheme. However, all the prevailing conditions put in place by HDB will have to be met.
The main takeaways are that while it is ideal for parties to reach an agreement on what to do with the HDB flat owned by the divorcing parties, it would be prudent when discussing the issue, to consider whether the party who wishes to retain the flat is eligible to do so.
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