HDB flats for singles - Your “What-if” questions, answered
So, you’re 35-years-young, single, and almost ready to buy your very own HDB flat.
For the most part, you’ve already done the homework. You know your SSCS from your JSS, and you know the pros and cons of buying a BTO 2-room flexi vs a resale HDB flat. Perhaps you’ve even done the calculations, and have a sweet bachelor(ette) pad in mind.
(If you haven’t done the homework, catch up quickly with ‘Can Singles buy HDB flats? All the rules you should know’.)
But even though you already have a handle on all the practical matters, there might be one or two “what if” questions buzzing around your head.
For example: What if you get married when you’re older? What if you have trouble paying off your loan? And if you’re applying with someone, which scheme should you apply under?
This article will answer your burning singles-buying-HDB questions so you can finally sleep at night.
Q1: What if you buy under the HDB Singles Scheme, but get married in the future?
Don’t worry, there is absolutely no need to sit around and wait for ‘The One’. You can go ahead and buy a flat under the HDB singles scheme of your choice, because that’s not going to affect your ability to marry and live with your spouse in the future.
The only “complication” is that according to HDB rules, every nuclear family unit can only own one flat. So, if both of you own HDB flats, one of you has to sell or transfer ownership of their flat within 6 months of the marriage.
As for living arrangements, you can either (a) stay in the remaining HDB flat or (b) get a new flat.
Staying in the remaining HDB flat
Either way is perfectly legal and above board, but there are slight differences to take note of:
Adding spouse as occupier
Adding spouse as co-owner
Different legal status (spouse is merely occupier, not owner)
Same legal status (both owners)
No need to pay resale levy
Need to pay resale levy if other flat was an HDB flat or EC
You can continue to own private investment property as long you have completed the Minimum Occupation Period for your HDB flat.
Getting a new flat together
Singles-turned-spouses can purchase a new HDB flat together, just like any other couple. But if both of you have owned HDB flats before, you will be regarded as second-timer applicants, meaning you don’t enjoy priority for flat bookings and are disqualified for certain housing grants.
Also, you will need to dispose of any existing HDB flats and/or private properties within 6 months of getting the new one. For HDB BTO, you need to dispose of private property at least 30 months prior.
You may want to consider this option if you’re planning to start a family and require a larger home or one in a specific location.
Q2: What if you buy an HDB flat with your partner who’s not your spouse/fiancé/fiancée?
Maybe marriage is completely out of the question for you - but you still wish to live with your partner, even though they are not legally your spouse/fiance/fiancee. Can you do that in your singles HDB flat?
Yes, actually, you can. There are two feasible options for unmarried couples. You can either apply for a flat under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme (SSCS) and live together, or apply jointly under the Joint Singles Scheme (JSS).
Applying under SSCS
Under the SSCS, only one person is the legal owner of the flat. If you’re the owner, your partner is merely a “tenant” in the eyes of the law. You cannot add him or her as an occupier either, since that’s open to immediate family members only.
This means that if you, the sole owner, should pass away, your partner will not be able to take possession of the flat - unless he or she was in your will. (So write your will early!)
On the other hand: Being a non-owner, your partner is free to buy another property (HDB or private) of their own. This allows you both to own two properties.
Applying under JSS
If both partners would like legal recognition of their ownership in the flat - for example, if you plan to split the housing costs 50-50 - then applying under JSS is a better option.
Under JSS, you will need to decide if you two will hold joint tenancy or tenancy-in-common of the HDB flat.
For joint tenancy, both of you are registered as full owners of the flat. If you pass away, your partner will still be the rightful owner of the flat (and vice versa).
Under tenancy-in-common, on the other hand, you each are part-owners, legally owning only a share of the flat (say 50% each).
So if you pass away first, your share of the flat will NOT automatically go to your partner - unless, again, it was explicitly stated in your will.
Q3: What if you lose your job and cannot repay your home loan?
One advantage of applying for an HDB flat as a couple - even if it’s under the Joint Singles Scheme - is that you can hedge against future financial difficulties. If one person loses their job, at least the other person can help repay the home loan.
But what if you buy your flat under the SSCS and are the sole owner of your flat? Will your loss of income result in you losing your home?
Fear not. Turns out that it is not all that easy to lose your flat. Whether you take on a bank loan or HDB loan for your flat, repossession is only a last resort after you have exhausted all the options available.
Should you lose your job, you can notify HDB or the bank immediately to work out a solution. Typically they will temporarily reduce or defer your mortgage repayments, or offer ways (such as a debt consolidation plan) to restructure or reduce your other loans.
All HDB owners who use their CPF savings to pay for their mortgage are also covered under the Home Protection Scheme (HPS).
HPS is a mortgage-reducing insurance that kicks in in the case of a complete loss of income, e.g. death, terminal illness or total permanent disability. Should any of these happen, CPF will settle the outstanding housing loan.
Q4: What happens to your house if you die?
While nobody likes to be morbid, the question of what happens to the flat after you die is one that has crossed many singles’ minds. After all, you have no spouse to retain possession of the flat - what then?
If there is no will, then the flat ownership will be transferred to your next-of-kin according to Singapore’s intestate succession law.
Assuming you have no spouse or kids, your flat will go to your parents. If you have no surviving parents, it will go to your siblings in equal portions. If there are no siblings or parents, the next-of-kin is your grandparents. Failing that, it will be distributed among your aunts and uncles.
Whoever inherits your HDB flat, they will need to meet HDB’s eligibility conditions to own a flat in order to keep it. Otherwise it must be disposed of (e.g. sold).
Typically, your next-of-kin will also inherit the outstanding mortgage along with the flat. But in the case of an HDB flat, you are covered by the Home Protection Scheme, so CPF will settle your mortgage. Your family will be able to keep your flat without adding to their debt.
By the way, if you are not automatically covered by HPS, there are also private insurance products that perform the same function, such as life insurance, endowment plans and Mortgage Reducing Term Assurance (MRTA).