Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats in Singapore can be bought, sold, or rented. All these transactions require the vendor, buyer, landlord, and tenant to attend in person to sign vital legal documents to complete the transaction.
If attending in person proves problematic, an alternative is to execute an HDB power of attorney. The person who owns the flat grants power to someone else to act on their behalf in certain situations.
HDB powers of attorney are the most popular POAs in Singapore.
What is an HDB power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal document which authorises someone else to act on your behalf because you can’t. There are several reasons why a POA can be relevant and helpful.
If the flat owner spends a lot of time overseas, then an HDB power of attorney can make it easier to manage the property. A third party is given the authority and power to act for the flat owner in their absence.
The term ‘attorney’ does not refer to a lawyer, so an attorney appointed in this way can be anyone. They don’t need to have any legal knowledge, qualification, or be a particular age, or have a designated status. However, an attorney must be an adult.
The person executing the POA is called ‘the donor’, and the person they appoint is ‘the donee’ or the attorney.
The legal document or power details the actions an attorney can take. The choice of an attorney is essential; it should be a responsible person with the time to act. They must also be conversant with financial and property matters.
What powers can an HDB power of attorney convey?
An HDB power of attorney can authorise the sale or purchase of the property, the arrangement of a tenancy agreement, the ability to execute documents, and refund money to the CPF Board.
Different types of HDB POA
There are three main types of HDB POA, and these are:
- Purchase, subletting, and general management
- Sale, subletting, and general management
- Sub-letting and general management
In all cases, general management includes the care and maintenance of the flat, so it is maintained to an acceptable standard, and the resolution of any problems or issues.
Specific scenarios where an HDB POA is helpful
Buying or selling an HDB resale flat
The purchase or sale of an HDB resale flat gives rise to several key legal documents which must be signed in person. These include:
- Application forms for housing grants, enhanced contra facility.
- Declarations, including a declaration of ownership.
- Other documents like a deed of assignment, agreement for lease, lease-in-escrow, or mortgage-in-escrow.
Buying a build-to-order flat (BTO)
The purchaser must attend all three key stages when buying a BTO flat in person. These include applying and selecting the flat, signing the agreement for lease, and collecting the keys.
Purchasers unable to attend one or more of these appointments can create an HDB POA, so someone else can do this on their behalf.
Renting out an HDB flat
An HDB flat owner who will be overseas during the rental period must execute a power of attorney.
HDB regulations require someone present in Singapore who can act on the owner’s behalf and deal with the management of the flat, plus any issues or problems. The only restriction is the attorney cannot also be the tenant of the flat.
The donee’s responsibilities vary and may include vetting prospective tenants and taking up references to ensure that only eligible people are offered a tenancy. The donee may also have to manage any changes to the rental agreement, check the flat for care and maintenance, and ensure the existing tenant does not sublet it.
Executing an HDB POA
Whatever the purpose of the HDB POA, it must contain certain essential information. This includes the property owner’s full name as recorded in their Singapore National Identification Registration Card (NRIC), the full name of the person being granted the POA as registered in their NRIC, and the full address of the HDB flat.
Executing an HDB POA
A lawyer drafts the power of attorney, and the client must sign it. The lawyer can act as a witness to the signature.
The HDB POA must be filed at the High Court Registry in Singapore.
Registration of an HDB POA
For the POA to be effective, at least one of the following must be submitted to the Housing and Development Board with the application form:
- The original power of attorney, plus one photocopy.
- The certified true copy from the High Court, plus one photocopy.
- Two certified true copies of the power of attorney from a lawyer.
- A solicitor’s letter confirming that the standard format of POA provided by the HDB was used.
- A solicitor’s certified true copy of the POA and, if necessary, the computer printout with the High Court seal where the POA has been registered through the electronic filing system.
Obtaining an HDB power of attorney for people already overseas
A Singapore law firm can draft an HDB power of attorney for someone overseas. However, the donor must sign the POA before a notary public in that country, the Singapore High Commission, or a Singaporean Ambassador.
If an HDB flat is being purchased with CPF money, the CPF Board will not accept an HDB POA witnessed by a notary public from overseas. In this scenario, the document must be signed in front of an official from a Singapore overseas mission who affix their own seal to it.
In almost every situation, executing an HDB POA before leaving Singapore is less complicated.
Validity and revocation of an HDB power of attorney
An HDB power of attorney is valid for six years from the date of signing. POAs can be revoked if they are no longer required. To do this, the donor must give written notice to both the HDB and the donee with the effective date of revocation.
HDB powers of attorney can be very useful when conducting transactions and managing an HDB flat.
A lawyer will be required to draw up and execute the document. As with any POA appointment, it is essential to choose the right attorney to act in your best interests.
An experienced legal professional can also advise whether a general power of attorney may also be appropriate, particularly if the donor is planning to spend time overseas. An HDB POA is both limited and specific to certain transactions regarding an HDB flat, so it cannot be used to manage the donor’s interests more widely if they are absent.
Frequently asked questions
Which documents on an HDB flat sale or purchase must someone be present in person to sign?
On the sale or purchase of an HDB flat, certain documents must be signed in person. These include an option to purchase, an agreement to lease, a deed of assignment, a lease-in-escrow, and a mortgage-in-escrow.
What is a notary public in Singapore?
Notaries public in Singapore are qualified lawyers appointed by the Board of Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public to provide notarisation services. Only lawyers who have been in practice for seven years or more can be appointed.
Notarisation is a process by which essential legal documents can be authenticated to guarantee they have been validly executed and are not open to challenge.
Can an HDB power of attorney be used in any other situations?
An HDB power of attorney is limited to the transactions specified within it. It cannot be used to conduct any other form of action or business on behalf of the donor outside of the HDB agreement.
How much does an HDB power of attorney cost?
The fee for a lawyer in Singapore to prepare and execute an HDB power of attorney is in the range of S$150-S$400. This figure usually includes the court fee, as the POA will need to be registered.
Can couples rely on one HDB power of attorney, or do they each need their own POA?
One spouse cannot act on behalf of the other as both will need to be present for certain transactions if they are joint applicants. If one can attend and the other cannot, the absent spouse will require their own POA. Furthermore, this cannot be used to cover the absence of the other spouse at a later date. An HDB POA is specific to the person who has executed it.