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Written Answer by Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on Rental of Properties by Foreign Workers

Notice Paper No. 121 Of 2015 For The Sitting On 11 May 2015 Question No. 241 For Written Answer 

MP: Mr Seah Kian Peng

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what are the regulations on rental of properties by foreign workers; (b) what regulatory powers are available to public officers who knock on doors but are denied entry; (c) over the past year, how many checks have been conducted on suspected illegal rentals of HDB flats to foreign workers; (d) how many have been evicted and whether these numbers have increased over the years; and (e) what measures are in place to encourage residents and community leaders to report suspected overcrowding in rental flats and whether these need to be improved. 

  1. Property owners who wish to rent out their units or rooms to foreign workers are subject to guidelines and rules issued by URA and HDB for the renting of private properties and HDB flats respectively. These include the maximum allowable occupancy by tenants in each unit. In addition, requirements set by agencies, for example, SCDF’s fire safety standards which, amongst others, prohibit illegal partitioning of units, must continue to be complied with by the owners and tenants of rented premises.
  2. Correspondingly, MOM’s Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations requires employers to ensure their work permit holders are housed in accommodation that meets the rules set by various agencies.
  3. Agencies have regulatory powers to enter units for inspections or investigations where they were previously denied entry. For example, the recent amendments to the Housing and Development Act have increased the powers of investigation for HDB officers and allow them to enter premises, if necessary, with a search warrant. Similarly, public officers from agencies like the SCDF, NEA and MOM are also empowered to enter premises for the purposes of conducting an inspection under specific circumstances.
  4. HDB investigates and takes action for cases that have infringed HDB’s rules for renting out the whole flat or rooms. However, HDB does not have statistics on cases involving foreign workers.
  5. Our agencies will continue their concerted enforcement efforts. Residents who suspect that their neighbouring units are housing more than the allowed numbers of subtenants should make a report to HDB. Similarly, if neighbours suspect that a private property is overcrowded with foreign workers, they should report this to URA. Both HDB and URA will investigate and take up enforcement actions as appropriate. MOM will also hold the errant employers who allowed their foreign workers to be housed in such conditions to account.