MOM launches new Foreign Worker Tenant Enquiry Service
Service enlists private homeowners to help report foreign worker housing violations
- The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) soft launched the Foreign Worker Tenant Enquiry Service (FWTES) in December 2018 to allow private homeowners who have rented out their residential properties to easily check the names of work pass holders registered to be residing at their addresses. It also allows removal of the names of foreigners who have moved out.
- In addition to providing more convenience, the new Service, accessed via the MOM website, enlists private homeowners to help report foreign worker housing violations (See Annex for screenshots of FWTES). In the past, homeowners had to manually submit a hardcopy form to MOM to perform these functions.
- The FWTES will be fully rolled out by the end 2019, after implementing SMS or email alerts to notify homeowners whenever a work pass holder is registered with MOM to be staying at their residential properties. There will also be a new feature to allow homeowners to “delist” their properties, if they have no intention of renting them out to foreign workers.
- Most employers of work permit holders arrange accommodation of their foreign workers while others provide a housing allowance for their workers to find their own lodging. To ensure foreign workers live in proper and approved accommodation, as well as to facilitate contact tracing in times of emergency, employers are required to declare to MOM the addresses of their foreign workers using the Online Foreign Worker Address Service (OFWAS).
- There are a number of checks in OFWAS which aim to ensure that the addresses entered are acceptable. For instance, if the occupancy limit of the registered address is reached, OFWAS will not allow another tenant to be registered. If the employer attempts to register a commercial address as residential address, the registration will also be blocked and the work pass cannot be issued or renewed.
- For Housing and Development Board (HDB) addresses, OFWAS will check that the foreign worker is already registered as a tenant in the HDB system before it accepts the address.
Misuse of private home addresses
- MOM conducts regular inspections to ensure that private residential addresses declared by employers are accurate. Through these inspections, MOM detected that private homes’ addresses were being used to register as foreign workers’ residential addresses, without the homeowner’s knowledge.
- A minority of cases were due to the employer making genuine administrative errors while registering the addresses, such as keying the wrong unit number. In other cases, the employers had deliberately entered false address information to circumvent the housing requirement. This was likely due to them housing their workers in overcrowded units or in unapproved factory premises. There were also cases where workers who sourced for their own accommodation deliberately provided false address information to their employers, as they were residing in overcrowded units.
- In the last three years, more than 2,000 employers and 1,000 foreign workers have been taken to task for providing false addresses or for failing to update the latest addresses of their foreign workers.
489 reports on misused addresses since FWTES
- Even though the FWTES has been soft-launched recently, it has proven to be a useful tool in MOM’s enforcement efforts against false declarations of foreign worker addresses. It has enabled 489 homeowners to check and report cases of misused addresses, compared to less than 30 per year previously.
- The Ministry has contacted each of these homeowners to rectify their residential records and block their addresses to prevent further misuse. All the employers and workers involved have been or are being investigated.
- Ms Jeannette Har, Director, Well-Being at MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, said, “Homeowners are best placed to inform us if foreign workers are indeed staying at their property, and they can now do so easily online, via the FWTES. We thank the homeowners who have reported cases to us, and encourage others to do the same.”
Enforcement Actions Taken
- MOM takes a very serious view of these cases. Arising from these complaints, MOM has fined 19 employers as at 24 April 2019 for failing to exercise supervision over their foreign workers’ place of residence and for providing false address information to MOM. In addition, MOM has revoked the work permits of 13 workers for abetting their employers to provide false addresses and they have been banned from working in Singapore. For other cases that have been reported, investigations are currently ongoing.
- Employers have an obligation to ensure their foreign workers’ accommodation meet regulatory requirements. They are also required to report the addresses of their workers accurately to MOM. Employers remain accountable when their workers source for their own accommodation, and must verify that the addresses provided by the workers are correct. Examples of verification measures include physical visits to their workers’ place of residence and having sight of signed tenancy agreements.
- MOM will continue to reach out to the Management Corporation Strata Title bodies (MCSTs) in private residential properties to inform their residents about the FWTES. Homeowners should immediately report to MOM at firstname.lastname@example.org if their addresses have been misused.