Some property-buying options in Singapore are simpler for a traditional family nucleus, but not everyone gets married (if at all!) before buying a home together.
For instance, under laws related to buying or owning a property in Singapore, same-sex couples are considered two private individuals (rather than a family nucleus), even if you got married overseas in a country that recognises such marriages.
That’s a huge hurdle, especially if you’re planning to take the HDB route, since this could delay or even disqualify you from applying for a HDB flat.
Chin up! All’s not lost in the game of love. Whether you’re looking to buy or rent, we’ve broken down all the different options to help you find a housing solution that’s perfect for you and your loved one:
1. Apply for a BTO HDB flat
Under the Joint Singles Scheme, you and your partner can apply for 2-room Flexi flats in non-mature estates – you’d never guess – as joint singles.
The biggest downside: Be prepared for a bit of a squeeze.
Bear in mind a 2-room Flexi flat doesn’t mean there are 2 bedrooms – the living room also counts as a room, so these flats come with a living/dining area, ONE bedroom, kitchen, toilet and household shelter.
But some say squeezy, some say cosy. If you’re in the latter camp, you and your partner are eligible to apply if you’re both:
- Singapore Citizens,
- At least 35 years old,
- Haven’t owned, disposed or have an interest in any local non-HDB or overseas property within 30 months of applying for the flat, and
- Your average gross monthly household income doesn’t exceed $9,000
This is one of the most affordable options – plus you’ve also got housing grants of up to $80,000!
2. Buy a resale HDB flat
Similar to a BTO, you can also get a resale HDB off the market through the Joint Singles Scheme.
If you opt to buy a resale HDB flat instead, you’re not limited in terms of HDB flat size or location (and you’re still eligible for HDB grants. Sweet!).
Of course, there are still eligibility requirements to meet – the same criteria apply, except that there’s no income ceiling when it comes to buying a resale HDB flat.
Plus, depending on your gross monthly household income, you also qualify for a total housing grant of up to $160,000!
3. Apply for an executive condo
Buying an Executive Condominium under the Joint Singles Scheme? Similar eligibility requirements apply; as for your income level, your average gross monthly household income mustn’t exceed $16,000.
4. Buy a condo/ private property
One of the biggest bonuses of buying a non-HDB home is that you don’t have to wait till you’re 35. That’s one of the biggest reasons why many younger same-sex or non-married couples opt to buy a condo together if finances allow.
There are also no restrictions placed on the marriage status of a condo or private property buyer – meaning you can purchase a condo or private property with your partner whether you’re legally married or not (and regardless of which country your marriage was registered in.
5. Rent a place instead
The biggest fear of any tenant is getting kicked out of the home.
If you’re defaulting on rent, that’s your bad.
But if you’re just living your best life, you should feel safe in the place you choose to call home.
Most Tenancy Agreements include a clause stating that tenants cannot use the home for “illegal purposes” or “activities of an improper nature”, and that the landlord can terminate the lease if the tenant breaches this clause.
If you’re renting a place together, or if your partner frequently visits, an uncomfortable landlord (especially if it’s a live-in landlord) might attempt eviction by alleging that the clause has been breached.
To prevent such situations, it’s best to suggest cancelling the phrase “activities of an improper nature” in the Tenancy Agreement, on the basis that its vagueness might be unfair to you as a tenant.
This could also help you to identify pro-LGBTQ landlords who respect your identity, avoiding any future disputes before you lock yourself into a long-term lease.
Types of home ownership
So, you’ve found The One and are ready to buy.
Note that however much money you and your partner each contribute to buying and building your nest is a private agreement between yourselves, and is entirely separate from how you legally own the home.
Tip: You’ll have to decide on the type of home ownership you’re going for at the point of purchase of the property. If you want to change this once you’ve already signed on the dotted line, the complicated legal process may result in additional charges for both of you, so think it through wisely!
Under a Joint Tenancy, both you and your partner have the rights of a single owner, and hold an equal interest in the whole property.
This means any legal decision regarding the property (e.g. to sell the property) must be made jointly.
And uh, we don’t mean to be morbid, but the demise of one party means the property rights automatically gets transferred to the partner.
This arrangement resembles most closely with the rights of a married couple to their property.
The implication is that it’s next to impossible to kick your partner out against their will – this makes it much harder to split up if one party wants out but the other doesn’t, because you’ll both be tied to the huge asset that is your property.
Joint Tenancy also means that if (touch wood!) one party passes away, the right of survivorship applies – their ownership of the property is automatically transferred to the surviving co-owner, regardless of whether they have left a will.
A potential issue arises if your relationship goes south.
When a married couple splits their property, the court will look at both financial and non-financial contributions of each party before coming to a verdict.
If a non-married couple (legally in Singapore, we mean) goes to court to divide their property, they’ll be treated as two private individuals rather than related parties or a family unit.
This means non-financial contributions might not be taken into as serious account, so all those years of being head chef of your kitchen doesn’t count 🙁
A Tenancy-In-Common means both you and your partner have a distinct, separate share in the property. This share could be equal or unequal.
Separate from each person’s share in the property, this is also a good time to discuss how you’ll be splitting the costs of upkeeping the property: maintenance fees, utility bills (and mostly importantly, who pays for pizza night?).
Your share of the property doesn’t really matter if you’re living in the property – both you and your partner have the right to live there regardless of the size of your share.
But when you want to dispose of the property, that’s where Tenancy-In-Common differs from Joint Tenancy. Each party is entitled to confer their share of the property to someone else or leave their share to someone other than the co-owner in a will.
If (touch wood!) you ever need to split your assets as a couple, you’ll get an amount according to your share of the property when you sell it off.
In certain situations, it might be practical for only one person in the relationship is to be the legally registered owner of the property.
For instance, if a same-sex couple is looking to buy a HDB flat, but only one partner is 35 years of age while the other has a long way to go.
The other partner has no legal say in anything to do with the home, which also means they technically don’t have legal rights to stay in the home, either.
Neither can you include your partner as a legal owner of the house once they’re of age (35, we mean), since you can only do that with family members.
If you’re planning to sell the HDB flat and perhaps upgrade to another after the 5-year Minimum Occupancy Period, this might be a sound idea since this one-person ownership will only be temporary.
But if you’re planning to make it your long term home, bear in mind you’re also locking yourselves in to this situation for as long as you own (or, um, don’t own) the home.
If both parties are financially contributing to the cost of the home that only one person legally owns, consider getting a loan agreement drawn up through a bank, which requires that the owner repays the other party’s contribution as a loan.
Or, document it in an IOU (which literally means “I Owe You”, heh) as evidence of the “loan”. It’s an informal contract, but if drafted properly, is legally binding.
Include the following details:
- Both parties’ names and NRIC numbers
- The amount of money lent
- When the money should be returned, or how much money should be returned and how frequently
- Any interest charged, and if so, how much
- Each party’s signature
You may also want to arrange for a witness to be present when signing the IOU. If so, include the witness’s particulars and have them sign on the IOU as well.
Tip: You can only pay for a home with your CPF if you’re a legal owner of the home. For any other person contributing financially, it’ll all have to be in $$$ cold $$$ hard $$$ cash $$$.
Living together as an LGBT couple
Singapore’s still a work-in-progress when it comes to providing every couple with the same rights, but for anyone who wants to begin building their home sweet home, there are always options!
Ready to take your relationship to the next level and move in together? Tap the banner below to start home-shopping!