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Cannot, You Know: 14 Things That Aren’t Allowed In An HDB Flat

You may know that your neighbour’s five-room BTO flat on the 30th storey has sold for $1m (and you still feel angsty about having settled for a second-floor unit five years ago).

But did you know that there are more than one million HDB flats located all over Singapore and that more than 80 per cent of us live in one?

What you also may not be aware of: these things that are considered illegal in a HDB flat. And, unfortunately, striking a gong in front of your neighbour’s home isn’t one of those.


You cannot walk around naked

It’s a Public Order and Nuisance Act thing. Of course, you can take this to mean that you can’t stand in the nude at the window or at your main door where your neighbour or the Ninja Van delivery person can see your privates clearly. Naked while bathing or pooping? No problem.  

No wet, dripping laundry outside your home

Because if you bathe in your clothing, erm, you will have a lot of wet clothing around, which brings us to this next rule.

This is a little-known fact: you aren’t permitted to hang wet laundry and also dripping mops out on your bamboo poles. If you must, they have to be squeezed dry first. The reason? Your neighbours living below your unit won’t be very happy with how their painstakingly sun-dried clothes are damp all over again, thanks to your dripping laundry.

You cannot smoke outside of your flat

That would include common areas like the void deck, staircase and corridors – though that hasn’t stopped many errant residents from sneaking in an illegal puff or two. And if you think you can catch them in action with the CCTV that you have installed outside your flat, read on…


You cannot install CCTVs outside your flat, unless you have written approval

There must be a really valid reason – like loansharks are spraying O$P$ on your door or you suspect that the next-door uncle has been stealing your potted kumquat. And even then, you need to make a police report and seek approval from your town council. 

Don’t suka suka add extra levels to your humble little flat

So you bought a one-storey flat but you suddenly got all inspired and decided that now, you want to convert it into a two-storey maisonette by getting your contractor to add a mezzanine level above your living room sofa. Just don’t. It’s not like playing with Lego. It’s an offence.

And don’t customise your household shelter aka bomb shelter

You spent $100,000 on your designer renovations but alas, that bomb shelter with its utilitarian door and walls makes your Scandinavian-meets-Balinese resort-meets-New York loft home look… like your parents’ flat. Sorry hor, you can’t do anything about that. The rule: you cannot alter or redesign the shelter’s reinforced walls and floors, ceiling or steel door.

Don’t continue with renovations on weekends or after 5pm on weekdays

While you may tsk tsk at this rule if you can’t wait to move out of your in-laws’ place and into your own living space, you will be relieved if you are the one living next to a flat undergoing renovations. Hardcore work like excessive drilling and demolishing of walls can only be done from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. Phew.


Same same, no loud noises from 10.30pm to 7am

This isn’t an enforced law but your fellow residents can officially complain if you produce loud noises between 10.30pm and 7am. Which means, no jamming on your new drums, screeching out karaoke ballads or playing Butter on your iphone at maximum volume.

You can’t build a fish tank that weighs more than 600kg per room

That should be good news to most home aquarium enthusiasts since we don’t really know anyone with a more-than-600kg fish tank.

If you own a three-room flat, you can’t rent out more than one bedroom

That’s because ­– and it’s one of those slightly complicated things that even some language-sensitive locals struggle to remember – a three-room flat does not have three bedrooms but only two. If you rent out both bedrooms, where are you, the flat owner, going to sleep? Also, don’t try thinking out of the box: only “proper” original bedrooms that were built as part of your flat can be rented out.

You can’t have more than six people living in a HDB flat

Sounds like a Phase 1/2/3 kind of restriction? In reality, this applies only to tenants to prevent overcrowding and turning residences into squatters. If your entire family of eight lives together, don’t use this article as an excuse to shoo away your pesky cousins.


Tenants must rent your flat or room for at least six months

You can forget about upselling your accommodation as “The Way A True Local in Bedok Lives, Plays and Eats” on Airbnb.

Home-based private tutors cannot hold lessons involving more than three students at one time

Math problem sum question: What is the largest sum of students you can have in one A-Math class then?

You can’t run a home-based business if it involves the following

1) Causes nuisance to your neighbours or affects their living environment (which can mean a lot of things, depending on your neighbourly relations) so nothing that results in noise, smoke, odour, dust, litter, high human and vehicle traffic.

2) Uses heavy equipment that is not intended for domestic use.

3) Requires additional staff other than you, you and you.

4) Requires storage or movement of goods.

5) Massage services. But you can offer hairstyling, facials and nail services.

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