Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The HDB Flat "Marriage Proposal": What Happens During A Divorce?

You've probably heard of that supposedly unromantic HDB flat 'marriage proposal', in which one party (usually the guy) broaches the topic of marriage by popping the (Singaporean) question: "Dear, shall we get an HDB flat?" But have you ever wondered what happens to the HDB flat when it's a case of 'happily (n)ever after'? How does ownership of the flat get affected during the divorce procedure in Singapore and what happens to your HDB flat in a divorce that happens early on in the marriage, or if a split occurs BEFORE you even get the keys to your flat?

The new flat we are waiting for. Applied before Louie was even conceived and now he is already 2 years old.
The culture in Singapore is so different from other countries when it comes to courtship and getting hitched. I can still remember how the mother of my then-girlfriend told me about the HDB flat that her neighbor was selling and that I should have a look at it. Mind you, I am not complaining, since I am happy with my choice. Upon her mother's advice, we bought the flat and got married, based on that 'HDB proposal' - her mother proposed that I buy the neighbor's HDB flat, I agreed, and the deal was sealed.

But, as all of us already know, not all marriages end with a 'fairy-tale ending'. Some couples don't even get the chance to be married as the relationship has soured before they got the keys to their BTO flats. Mine was a resale flat so we could get the keys pretty quickly, but many things can happen during the 5-year waiting period that couples have to endure while their BTO flat is being constructed. Besides getting over the heartbreak, one would still have to deal with the loss of the 10% deposit for the flat which can easily be upwards of S$20,000 (which is a rather conservative figure already).

I have mixed feelings about this rather unique culture of ours. On one hand, the requirement that a couple needs to get married in order to get an HDB flat to call their own has probably given couples a real incentive to get married and subsequently have children. But on the other hand, would the deposit paid upfront for the purchase then become the additional “penalty” they have to bear in the event of a failed relationship? Would that be considered adding salt to their wound?
Hopefully, there's no couple out there that is still together because of this potential financial setback, instead of choosing their own (separate) happiness. I only can offer this piece of advice: Choose wisely - both the flat and the life partner. Like I tell just about everyone, I am indeed a VERY lucky guy!

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