Singaporean loses HDB flat, foreign wife runs away (Part 3)

June 8, 2012

Alas a solution?

After Part 1 (“Singaporean loses HDB flat, foreign wife runs away”, May 8)
and Part 2 (“”Singaporean loses HDB, foreign wife runs away – thanks readers, May 14) of Billy’s (not his real name) story were published, he was elated to receive a letter from the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) giving him very detailed instructions as to how to obtain a copy of his ex-wife’s Divorce Court Order from the United States.

The letter said “The Legal Aid Board at its meeting on 29 March 2012, has deferred the grant of legal aid to you until you are able to produce a copy of the Court Order proving that (your wife) and yourself are divorced in California … to determine the issue of your matrimonial flat”.

Briefly, he has to send a request to the U.S. Court to obtain a copy of the document FL-180, enclosing a US$ cheque of US$15 and a stamped self-addressed envelope.

Solution came too late?

However, his joy was short-lived, as he received shortly thereafter another letter from the LAB, informing him that “It came to our attention that your flat in … was compulsorily acquired by the HDB in February 2010. Since the flat is now vested with HDB, we are unable to assist you to transfer your ex-wife’s share of the flat to you. In the circumstances, we are closing your file”.

The merry-go-round?

Billy said “I’m so disappointed, I thought my problem would finally be resolved. Why didn’t anyone tell me how to go about getting a copy of the Divorce Court Order all these years until now? Then, I wouldn’t have to go through the merry-go-round umpteen times to my Member of Parliament (MP), HDB, LAB, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), etc”.

Passed around like a ball?

For example, in a previous letter, the LAB wrote to him – “On perusal of your file, we note that the Divorce Certificate is not available. As this is the evidence that you are divorced, we would require this document for any Court proceedings. Since you were informed by an officer from MFA that you are “legally divorced”, we suggest that you obtain this document through the MFA”.

However, when he contacted the MFA, he was told to go back to the LAB.

Compensation based on date of Intent to Acquire, not date of Notice of Acquisition?

He has asked the HDB to explain why the “90 per cent of valuation” compensation to compulsorily acquire his HDB flat is only $229,000, against the estimated market valuation of $330,000 plus Cash-over-valuation (COV).

The HDB officer he saw explained to him that the compensation is based on 90 per cent of the HDB’s valuation on the date of the Intent to Compulsorily Acquire in February 2010, and not the valuation at the subsequent actual date of the Notice of Compulsory Acquisition.

Very few Compulsory Acquisitions?

In this connection, whenever the question was asked in Parliament, as to how many flats have been acquired by the HDB, the answer given seems to be a very small number.

Who will wait for Compulsory Acquisition?

I understand that it is common knowledge in the real estate industry, that HDB’s compulsory acquisition compensation is generally much lower than selling in the open market plus COV.

So, why would anyone wait for HDB’s compulsory acquisition?

Disappearing delinquency statistics?

Once a flat is sold, it in a sense, it will disappear from the HDB loans in arrears over three months or compulsory acquisition statistics.

Why were banks allowed to offer HDB housing loans from 1 January, 2003.

One possible reason perhaps, may be that at its historical peak, more than 40,000 HDB households were in arrears over three months.

HDB annual reports used to have a statistic on the number of HDB households given financial assistance, but this has disappeared for many years.

Since 1 January 2003, the HDB delinquency statistics have increasingly become more “incomplete”, as there are no publicly available statistics on HDB bank loans in arrears or foreclosures.

The HDB has said that it does not have the statistics on HDB bank loans in arrears or foreclosures.

Civil Service’s 7 principles?

The Civil Service recently announced the addition of three more service principles to better guide the relationship between the Public Service and Singaporeans – people-centricity, mutual courtesy and respect, and shared responsibility for public good, to the existing four principles of Care, Assessibility, Responsibility and Effectiveness (CARE).

How have these seven principles been applied in the context of Billy’s case?

Any suggestions for Billy?

Billy parting words at our meeting were – “I am so lost. I will lose my flat and be homeless soon. Who else can help me?”

Leong Sze Hian

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.