PROPERTY LAW IN SINGAPORE

 

Common Property Laws in Singapore

Q1: What is considered “residential property”?
It means all residential landed properties, including vacant land, detached houses, semi-detached houses, terrace houses; and any land or building zoned or gazetted for residential purposes, such as flat comprised in a building of less than 6-storey.

 

Q2: What are “joint tenants” and “tenancy in common” in Property co-ownership?
a. A property held by 2 or more persons as joint tenants means that upon the death of one joint owner, his interest in the property is taken over by the surviving owner(s). The joint owner may not will away his interest in the property to others in his Will.
b. A property held by 2 or more persons as tenants in common means that each owner has a specified or distinct share or proportion in the property. For example, such share could be on an equal basis (50%-50%) or 90% – 10% basis etc. Each owner may be able to dispose his share in the property either by sale or under his Will. Upon the death of one owner, the surviving co-owner(s) do(es) not take over the deceased’s interest in the property as is in the case of joint tenancy. His share shall be passed under his will or in accordance with the law of intestacy, as the case may be.

 

Q3: Can I make a gift of my real estate property during my lifetime?
Yes, but you may have to engage a Lawyer to draft the Deed of Gift, and seek his advice on the effects and consequences of a gift of real property.

 

Q4: What is the effect of a gift of property?
a. In the event the Grantor (person giving the property) dies within 5 years form the date inserted in the Deed of Gift, estate duty will be attracted on the whole of the property as if it is still formed part of the Grantor’s estate (section 8, Estate Duty Act, Cap. 97)
b. If the Donor (person giving the property) is bankrupt within 2 years from the date of the Deed of Gift, the gift becomes absolutely void as against the Official Assignee
c. Up to a period of 10 years form the date of the Deed of Gift, the Grantor’s bankruptcy will make the instrument voidable at the option of the Official Assignee only being rebuttable on evidence being furnished of the Grantor’s solvency at the date of the gift (section 52 of the Bankruptcy Act, Cap. 20)

Please note that because of the serious consequences, before any gift of real properties, it is important that you discuss your intended gift with your Lawyer, so that you are fully aware of the implications resulting from such gift.

Q5: What is an Option to Purchase?
It is an irrevocable offer made by the seller to the buyer which prevents the seller from offering another buyer of the same property within the agreed time period (usually 14 days). To ensure that a contract is enforceable the buyer pays the Option Money which is usually 1% of the purchase price to the seller.
However 5% to 10% is the standard norm for the purchase of new properties.

 

Q6: What are the main terms and conditions in the Option to Purchase
The main terms are:
a) the names of the parties involved in the transaction;
b) the description of the property and the price;
c) the option money or consideration and
d) the validity period within which the Buyer must exercise the option in order to purchase the property.

Q7: What is “exercising” the Option?
It means that the Buyer is complying with all the terms in of the Option made by the Seller for selling his/her property. A binding contract is created, and the Buyer will also pay the 10% deposit minus the option money of the purchase price of the property.

 

Q8: What happens if I cannot exercise the Option within the agreed due date?
If you do not exercise the Option within the validity period stated, the Option would expire and your seller is entitled to forfeit the option money and sell the property to another buyer.

FOREIGNER BUYING PROPERTIES IN SINGAPORE

 

SENTOSA FOREIGN OWNERSHIP

 

A foreign person who wishes to purchase a landed residential property is required to seek Government approval. A foreign person means any person who is not a –

  • Singapore citizen;
  • Singapore company;
  • Singapore limited liability partnership; or
  • Singapore society.

The ownership of such properties by foreigners is restricted to those who make adequate economic contribution to Singapore. The ownership restrictions are provided in the Residential Property Act.

What types of property must a foreign person seek approval to purchase?

  • Vacant residential land;
  • Terrace house;
  • Semi-detached house;
  • Bungalow/detached house;
  • Strata landed house which is not within an approved condominium development under the Planning Act (eg. townhouse or cluster house);
  • Shophouse (for non-commercial use);
  • Association premises;
  • Place of worship; and
  • Worker’s dormitory/service apartments/boarding house (not registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act).

What types of property can a foreign person purchase without approval?

  • Condominium unit;
  • Flat unit;
  • Strata landed house in an approved condominium development;
  • A leasehold estate in a landed residential property for a term not exceeding 7 years, including any further term which may be granted by way of an option for renewal;
  • Shophouse (for commercial use);
  • Industrial and commercial properties;
  • Hotel (registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act); and
  • Executive condominium unit, HDB flat and HDB shophouse.

Application for Foreign Person Purchase (Sentosa Cove)

 

  1. Can I apply even though I do not have a property in mind?

    Yes, you may apply for an approval in-principle. In fact, you are encouraged to do so before entering into any contract to purchase a restricted property so as to avoid any forfeiture of monies paid in the event you are not granted approval to acquire the property.

    If approval is granted, you have to submit the details of the property you intend to purchase within 6 months from the date of the letter of approval. Otherwise, the approval will lapse and you will have to make a fresh application. There is no extension of validity for the approval in-principle granted.

     

  2. What is the processing time?

    About 20 working days from the date all information and documents are received by us. The processing time includes verifying the information with other agencies, checking if the applicant or his spouse owns restricted property, as well as the assessment of the application by the Residential Property Advisory Committee before the final recommendation is sent to the Minister for consideration.

     

  3. Is there any restriction on the property that I can buy?

    Yes. The land area of the property must not exceed 1,672.3 sq metres or 18,000 sq feet.

     

  4. What are the conditions of approval?

    You shall use the property solely for your own occupation and that of the members of your family as a dwelling house and not for rental or any other purpose.

     

  5. I own a restricted property. Can I apply to purchase another restricted property?

    Yes, you may. However, if you are granted approval for the purchase, you will be required to dispose of your existing restricted property on or before the date of legal completion of the purchase of the new property.

     

  6. What are the penalties if I breach the condition?

    Depending on which condition is breached, you may be required to pay a financial penalty or be liable, upon conviction by a court, to a fine of up to $200,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to 3 years.

 

Special Schemes unique to Sentosa Cove

S1: Application by Foreign individual for in-principle approval to buy/ acquire a Restricted residential property in Sentosa Cove

Foreign individual who wish to buy/ acquire a Restricted residential property in Sentosa Cove can obtain fast track approval from Singapore Land Dealing Unit.

S2: Long Term Social Visit Pass Scheme

Foreign individual who wish to buy/ acquire a Restricted residential property in Sentosa Cove can apply for a long term social visit pass under this Scheme to facilitate entry into Singapore.

S3: Financial Investor Scheme

Foreign individual who wish to apply for permanent residency in Singapore can contact SLA or MAS approved institutions.

SLA APPROVAL FORM

 

Foreigners are eligible to purchase landed property exclusive in Sentosa Cove only and not anywhere else in Singapore. The ownership would qualify foreigners for Singapore Permanent Residency. Terms and Conditions apply.

TOTAL DEBT SERVICING RATIO

 

 

GROSS MONTHLY INCOME

 

60% TDSR

 

INCOME WEIGHTED AVERAGE AGE

 

LOAN TO VALUE

BUYER STAMP DUTY AND ADDITIONAL BUYER STAMP DUTY

 

BSD AND ABSD CALCULATION

 

REIMBURSEMENT OF ABSD:

MARRIED COUPLE SIN - SIN

 

MARRIED COUPLE SC - SPR

 

MARRIED COUPLE SIN - FR

 

MARRIED COUPLE SPR - FR

 

ABSD TABLE

 

ABSD FOR FOREIGNER

 

 

For those who have to pay the Additional stamp duty , you are required to stamp the documents (i.e. make payment) within 14 days of

i) Exercising the OTP (Option to Purchase)

ii) signing of the Sales and Purchase Agreement ( where there is no OTP)

iii) the date of transfer if (i) and (ii) is not applicable.

If the documents were signed overseas, the A.B.S.D is payable within 30 days of the receipt of the documents in Singapore.

SELLER STAMP DUTY

 

Seller’s Stamp Duty (“SSD”) for residential property

SSD for residential property is based on the purchase price or market value of property (“Base”), whichever is higher. SSD payable will be rounded off to the nearest dollar.

SSD payable on and after 14 January 2011 on residential property is as follows:

 

SELLER STAMP DUTY

 

SSD for industrial property

SSD for residential property is based on the purchase price or market value of property (“Base”), whichever is higher. SSD payable will be rounded off to the nearest dollar.

SSD payable on and after 12 January 2013 on residential property is as follows:

 

SELLER STAMP DUTY FOR INDUSTRIAL PROPERTY

DECOUPLING / PART SHARE

 

DECOUPLING

Decoupling refers to the process of separating the joint ownership of a property so it can be transferred to a single owner. This is a legal procedure that will be done by lawyers. Because of the cooling measures, this has been an increasingly popular method for joint property owners to free up one owner’s name, so that he can purchase another property without incurring the ABSD or the 80% LTV restriction (if his first property still has a mortgage loan).

Decoupling can either be done by

  • Way of Gift
  • Part Purchase/Sale
A. Decoupling by Way of Gift

Decoupling by way of Gift means that the property ownership is transferred to the other party without any monetary considerations (i.e. The part owner “gives” his share away without expecting any money in return).

Things to take note:

  • This can only be done if the property is fully paid ( i.e. no more mortgage loan).
  • The CPF + accrued interest of the exiting party has to be refunded.
  • 3% Buyer Stamp duty is still payable based on the value of the property share.
  • Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) still applies if it is done within 4 years of the purchase of the property.
  • ABSD still applies to PRs and Foreigners.
  • This method is not encouraged because it will have negative implications when you are selling the property. Properties given away by Way of Gift will be affected by the Bankruptcy Act for the first five years. However, we’ve also seen cases of banks refusing to provide loans for properties which has been given away by “Way of Gift” even though it has been more than 5 years. This method can be considered an’encumbrance’ to the property.
B. Decoupling by Part Sale

Another option which is more commonly used and encouraged is decoupling by Way of Saleor decoupling by part sale.

This involves the selling of the shares owned by 2 individuals, to one of them. Similarly, the objective is to free one party to purchase another investment property as a first – timer, i.e. with an 80% loan and no A.B.S.D. ( for Singaporeans)

For example, a married couple, Mr A and Mrs B (both Singapore Citizens) owns a private apartment under joint tenancy. They can proceed to a lawyer to decouple, where Mr A sells his share of the unit to Mrs B. His half share would be valued at market value and Mrs A would typically ‘purchase’ it with a bank loan. If Mr B had utilized his CPF to service the earlier loan, his CPF and accrued interest would also be refunded ( i.e. included in the new loan that Mrs A takes up).

Things to note:

  • Normal fees and charges involving a sales transaction are applicable, i.e. the 20 % Downpayment (of which 5% must be in cash), lawyers fees, 3% Buyer Stamp Duty, stamp duty on loan etc will be applicable here.
  • As it is similar to the purchase and sale of a property, legally, this has to be done by 2 separate law firms.
  • If this is done within 4 years of the purchase date, Mrs A would also need to pay the Sellers Stamp Duty.
  • Duration of this process (or how long it takes) can be between 2 – 12 weeks.

Once the legal process is done, Mr A would receive his proceeds from selling his share and thus be eligible to buy another property in Singapore at 80% loan and without needing to pay the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty.

HDB PART SHARE

HDB has announced that transfer of ownership is no longer possible for married couples

We are in the process of confirming if  the transfer of ownership is still possible for other family nucleus.

However, there is a difference in procedures and calculations depending on if

  • The HDB flat still has a mortgage loan
  • The Flat is bought using a HDB Loan or a Bank Loan.

You will need to ensure that the owner who is taking owner sole ownership is able to take on the existing loan and repay the CPF of the exiting party but the calculation of the remainder of the loan and the cash amount needed depends on if you took a HDB loan or a Bank Loan. Depending on the agreement that you signed, the bank is more likely to request for a new valuation.

However, HDB regulations and policies often change and so we would rather you contact us directly to see if it is a feasible arrangement for yourself.

You may also want to read a write up about HDB Decoupling.

Are there any other ways apart from decoupling ?

A lawyer recently shared with us a method called the 99-1% method which is only applicable for BUCs (Building Under Construction). This involves the party who has to pay the ABSD buying over 1% of the shares in a subsale.

Take note that this method involves

  • 16% Sellers Stamp Duty on the 1%
  • Buyers Stamp Duty
  • ABSD on the 1%
  • Additional Lawyers Fees and they should be informed and prepped before you place any option fees or downpayments.

 When calculations are done, this can result in significant savings. However, consult your lawyers prior to taking any action.  We may be able to assist in providing you basic details but only the lawyers will be able to provide you proper advice.

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