More powers given to HDB officers

Housing and Development Board (HDB) officers may soon get new powers to enter flats to carry out urgent repair works, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee in parliament and reported in the media.

This is because some homeowners, out of carelessness or ignorance, do things that endanger the lives of their neighbours and themselves, he said.

In June 2013, for instance, HDB officers had to enter a flat in Bishan for emergency repair works after its owner removed part of a structural column without securing the necessary HDB renovation permit. Fortunately, a concerned neighbour alerted HDB about the matter, Lee shared.

Since the column was critical to the building’s structural integrity, HDB engineers had to rush in “to prop up the affected beams, and worked throughout the night to reinstate the column”.

A few months later, HDB officers had to conduct emergency repairs at a Simei unit, after a renovation contractor demolished part of the reinforced concrete walls which served as supporting structures of the building.

Owners in these cases had “good sense” to allow HDB officers to enter their units for urgent repairs, noted Lee. However, it is imperative that HDB be allowed to intervene in case access is not given. The proposed amendments will see HDB officers enter a flat with a warrant to carry out repairs, after giving the owners 24 hours’ notice.

While MPs supported the amendments, they raised concerns on how the new powers would be exercised.

“Entering someone’s property without the owner’s explicit permission is indeed a very serious matter that bears a great responsibility,” stated MP Lee Bee Wah.

She requested that the notice be extended to 48 hours, and reminded HDB officers to carry proper identification prior to entering homes. Proper documentation, including video recording of the repair works should also be done in cases when the owners are not around.

Responding, Lee said: “We are mindful that the proposed powers to enter a flat without the owner’s permission can be perceived as a drastic measure. Let me assure this House that HDB will only do this as a last resort, after exhausting all other avenues to get the owner’s cooperation.”

“HDB will use these powers sparingly, and judiciously. These powers will also be balanced with proper safeguards,” he added.

 

Romesh Navaratnarajah, Singapore Editor of PropertyGuru Group, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories email romesh@propertyguru.com.sg