In 2018, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) removed a 3-year time-bar for divorcees to purchase a HDB flat. This simply means divorced persons no longer have to wait 3 years to buy an HDB flat after their divorce.
The Minister for National Development had expressed the hope that the removal of the debarment would help divorced persons provide a more conducive living environment for their children.
However, the move has sparked concerns of exploitation, where couples may intentionally divorce to purchase another HDB flat apart from their matrimonial home. Financial gain is a likely reason for couples resorting to such a measure, as they can receive income from renting out either flat while they live together.
Can I Obtain a Divorce on the Grounds of Purchasing Another HDB Flat?
Wanting to purchase an additional HDB flat will not be a reason the court will accept for granting a divorce.
This is because to get a divorce, the plaintiff (i.e. the spouse filing for divorce) has to prove there has been irretrievable breakdown of their marriage with the defendant (i.e. the spouse against whom the divorce is filed). And to do that, the plaintiff has to prove to the court one or more of the following facts:
- That the defendant has committed adultery and the plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the defendant;
- That the defendant has behaved in such a way that the plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with the defendant;
- That the defendant has deserted the plaintiff for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the writ for divorce;
- That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years immediately preceding the filing of the writ and the defendant consents to the divorce; or
- That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years immediately preceding the filing of the writ.
Wanting to purchase another HDB flat is hence not a valid ground for divorce and is therefore unacceptable by the courts.
What Might Happen If I’ve Successfully Obtained a Divorce and Purchased Another HDB Flat?
However, what could be an issue is where married couples who have successfully been granted a divorce, have been found later on to have intentionally used their new single status to purchase another HDB flat.
Family lawyer Ms Tracy Wang says:
“In the event that HDB finds that the purchaser, being a divorcee, has intentionally divorced to buy another HDB flat, HDB may revoke any grants of subsidies to them and repossess the HDB flat.”
She cautions that such cases may even constitute a crime such as cheating.
To ensure divorces are legitimate however, lawyers also do their part to ensure couples are not up to any ruse. Ms Wang mentioned that a way lawyers ascertain the validity of a divorce claim would be by assessing the behaviour of the couples on a case-by-case basis.
Have Cases of Divorcing to Buy HDB Flats been Recurrent in Singapore?
It would not come as a surprise to Ms Wang that there are couples intentionally divorcing to purchase another HDB flat, possibly for financial reasons (as mentioned above). Nevertheless, Ms Wang says she personally has not seen an increase in couples divorcing just to purchase another HDB flat.
She added that:
“More often than not, parties in a divorce would prefer to sell off their matrimonial flat and move on with their lives. If a divorced person retains ownership of the matrimonial flat, this is likely for the well-being of their children, or that selling their HDB flat would result in a loss.”
We hope that this article has given you further awareness on the law on divorce in Singapore. Couples who are considering to intentionally divorce to purchase another HDB flat should be mindful of the possible consequences. Don’t let greed soil the sanctity of marriage.
This article was first published on Singapore Legal Advice and was republished here with permission.