Subletting HDB flats? These 5 assumptions could land you in trouble.

6 min read

There can be several reasons for renting out your HDB flat, such as to earn more cash to cover your monthly expenditure or for passive rental income while you’re living in another property (e.g. a condo/a child’s apartment). That said, there are a handful of regulations you must know. 

One reason for regulating the renting out of flats is to preserve the intention of HDB housing for owner occupation, rather than for investment. The other objective is to preserve the quality of life and living environment of our HDB estates.

To stay on the right side of the law, you’ll need to know what you can and cannot do when subletting HDB flats. (FYI: the HDB’s technical term for flat owners’ is “tenants”, hence the term “subletting”.) Here are the most common (and wrong) assumptions people make:

Assumption #1: Anyone can rent out their flat after the Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP)

Many HDB flat owners are acquainted with the MOP, where they need to wait at least five years before renting out the entire flat. Still, there are certain conditions that one needs to be aware of:

  • Singapore Permanent Residents (PRs) are not allowed to sublet their flat, even if they have fulfilled the MOP.
  • One can however, rent out spare rooms in their HDB flat even during the MOP, as long as you get the necessary approval from HDB.
  • You’ll need to check the tenant’s eligibility to rent the entire HDB flat as well. Since Jan 1 2017, non-Malaysian work permit holders from the manufacturing/process sector are no longer allowed to rent the entire HDB flat, joining the list of non-Malaysian work permit holders in the construction and marine industry who are not allowed to do so.

Assumption #2: I can rent out my flat during the MOP by keeping one room locked

Under HDB rules, it’s mandatory that the owners and all authorised occupiers to continue to live in the flat with the subtenants during the MOP period.

To skirt around the rule against renting out the entire flat during the MOP, some home-owners rent out the whole flat minus one bedroom, keeping it locked and with the excuse that they are “frequent travellers”, if anyone asks.

Well, all we can say is that HDB regularly carries out random checks on suspicious rental acitivity. For instance, when they see that a room rental takes place but the rent is suspiciously high, they’ll carry out investigations and have the right to enter your flat for checks, to the extent of interrogating your tenant.

If they deem that you’ve illegally sublet your entire flat, they may take action against you under the Housing & Development Act. The worst case scenario is repossession of the flat.

subletting hdb flat lock door
Try the “lock one room” trick at your own risk.

Assumption #3: I can rent out my HDB to more tenants if I have a bigger flat

There is a such a thing as an occupancy cap, which specifies the maximum number of occupants in a unit when renting out a HDB flat. FYI, flat owners are not allowed to sublet bedrooms for 1-room and 2-room flats, whereas the maximum number of occupiers allowed in a HDB flat is 6, even if you live in a sprawling executive maisonette or a HDB jumbo flat.

Occupancy Cap for renting out HDB flats

HDB Unit TypeMaximum no. of occupants
3-room and larger6
Smaller than 3-room4

If renting out rooms, the stay-in landlord and any other non-tenants in the house will also count towards the occupancy cap.

Assumption #4: I do not need to register a tenant if he/she is my relative or friend

As long as you are collecting rent for someone’s stay in your flat, you will need to register the tenant. This is to ensure the person is legally allowed to stay in Singapore, and that the subletting quota for the neighbourhood is observed.  

FYI, there’s a limit on the number of foreigners and non-Malaysian Singapore PRs who are allowed to reside in a block of flats. The current quota for non-Malaysian tenants is set at 8% at the neighbourhood level and 11% at the block level. Landlords should check here before renting out their flat.

If you are renting a HDB flat/room to a friend or relative who is a Singaporean, you need to ensure that they do not currently own other HDB properties as well, unless they’re divorced or rent out their property within one month of renting a flat/bedroom from you.

Assumption #5: I can rent out the HDB flat/room to the same tenant for as long as I want

HDB flats are public housing primary for Singaporeans’ own stay. If you are thinking of renting them out long term to the same tenant, that’s not allowed. Although the maximum subletting period is 3 years per application, it’s reduced to 2 years if one or more subtenants is a non-Malaysian/non-citizen.

Each time you rent out your flat or renew the rental application, you need to reapply for approval.

You can however, rent out the HDB flat or room continuously to a different tenant each time. FYI, the minimum subletting period for a HDB room or whole flat is 6 months per application.

Old man crossing his arms in an X
Screen your tenants carefully, with the help of an agent if necessary to save you time.

Assumption #6: If I rent out the entire HDB flat, I’m not liable for what my tenant does

Your tenant is not allowed to sublet the rooms in the HDB flat he/she rents. If they do, or flout any law while living in your flat, the HDB flat owner may be held liable.

Under the Women’s Charter, for instance, an owner or tenant who rents out⁠ – or sublets⁠ – premises that are used as a brothel will be held criminally liable.

Hence, it’s prudent that the landlord interviews all prospective tenants face-to-face (or via video call). Frequent checks of the property, such as a visit once every two months, are also recommended to make sure that there are no unauthorised occupants and nothing fishy/illegal is happening behind closed doors.

If you’re unavailable (e.g. overseas), you can task someone you trust to do these checks.

Have any other questions about subletting your HDB flat? Ask us in the comments below!

Check out other rental related articles here: 7 basic steps to take when screening a tenant on your own and Renting out your HDB flat: Yay or nay?

Looking to sell your property?

Whether your HDB apartment is reaching the end of its Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) or your condo has crossed its Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) window, it is always good to know how much you can potentially gain if you were to list and sell your property. Not only that, you’ll also need to know whether your gains would allow you to right-size to the dream home in the neighbourhood you and your family have been eyeing.

One easy way is to send us a request for a credible and trusted property consultant to reach out to you.

Alternatively, you can jump onto’s Property Value Tool to get an estimate for free.

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Reader Interactions


    • Adam R.


      Yes, it is possible to do so. As long as one of the owners is a Singapore Citizen, the HDB unit can be rented out.

      Adam R.

    • Jacinmay

      Hi Adam,

      I am intending to rent out two rooms of my 3-room HDB flat as I have to stay with my aged parents. The tenants will only use and pay for the rooms and not the hall as I have my stuff in the hall and drop by there almost daily. I am intending to apply online for subletting: I want to apply online for subletting: Do I choose to apply for whole-flat rental or room rental (in which I put a note to inform HDB that I am rent out 2 rooms while staying with aged parents)

      The reason for my concern is that whole-flat rental entails paying for higher property tax of 10% of Annual value, right? Whereas room rental does not. But the 2nd room rental is necessary for me to tide over my leaving my tutoring job to look after aged parents..

      Please advise me,

    • Esther Loh

      Actually, there are many Malaysians (both PRs) who have purchased HDB flats and have rented out the whole unit. They then travel daily between Singapore and Malaysia. They even offer carpool service as carpooling as sideline is big business. Some of them even own more than one property in Malaysia which is against HDB rules and regulations. HDB can’t find out and mainly rely on buyer declaration. Perhaps there are no counter checks or it’s hard to get evidence. I also wonder what is the rational of applying these rules and regulations.

    • Tom

      do you need to add the tenant into the “occupiers” list of the flat?

    • Kanakarajh

      Assumption 4: I do not need to register a tenant if he/she is my relative or friend
      As long as you are collecting rent for someone’s stay in your flat, you will need to register the tenant. This is to ensure the person is legally allowed to stay in Singapore, and that the subletting quota for the neighbourhood is observed.

      Regarding the Assumption 4, I have my relative from Malaysia staying in my HDD. I do not collect rent from him. He was a student in a local university before and is now working in Singapore with an Employment Pass. I have never registered him or declared his stay to HDB. Am I breaking any law?

    • Woo

      Hi please could you advise if the tenant has the right to ask for the key of the room and lock the room? Thanks.

    • Shijien

      Hi, what if the owner never stay in but on the agreement she wrote masterbedroom only? How does the HDB aware? thanks!

    • Desmond

      Assumption 5 is inaccurate. Please check before you post. Each rental application is 3 yrs max, however , If the tenant wishes to continue to rent the room , a new application has to be submitted to HDB.

    • caseyaff

      “it’s reduced to 1.5 years if one or more subtenants is a non-Malaysian/non-citizen.”
      Assumption # 6.
      Please check. I believe it’s been changed to 2years.

    • Kyle Leung

      Hi caseyaff, it’s still 1.5 years.

    • TT

      Reference to Assumption #2 Lock one room.
      What if MOP is met and approval from HDB to rent out whole unit. Appointed POA as owner travelling and overseas most of the time. Owner rent out a room and lock one room. Is it considered illegal subletting?

    • guest0361

      hi, how to report someone who havent fulfilled MOP, lock one room but rent out the whole unit to tenant? and how to report them anonymously?

    • AJ

      If I have a 3 room flat, but with the first room knocked out to have a larger living room (leaving only 1 bedroom), am I still allowed to sublet the entire house (presuming I fulfill all the other criteria), or is that considered a 2 room flat that cannot be rented out at all?

    • WL

      If my friend is staying with me but free of charge and no rental collected, do I still need to report to HDB?

    • Esther

      Can the sub-tenant (master tenant) rent out the rooms to other tenants but inform the landlord to have the tenants register to the board?

    • Preeti S L

      If we cancel the hdb approval as soon as it starts due to differences in opinion ,how long can the tenant stay in the flat to find another place after the approval in cancelled( eg. he already moved in on 1 st n approval cancelled on 5th after not getting along with landlord)

    • Winn

      Is it legal for them to stay if there’s no rental collection and no need to register them as tenants in HDB?

    • Tanny

      If I sublet my flat, can I rent a room elsewhere.?

      • Kyle Leung

        Hi Tanny, yes you can do so.

    • Jaya Pragas

      Before the MOP can we rent out to Singaporean family
      They have no Hdb or Pte property

    • Jun Ming

      For 3 room whole unit rental, how much tax does HDB collect from the landlord yearly?

    • Ann

      I am a foreigner working in Singapore. Is it legal to join my friend at her 2 room HDB for a few months? She owns the place, and we will be staying together.

    • An

      Can I legally stay in my friend’s 2-room flat together with her? Do I need to get an approval from the HDB?

    • Suzy

      Is it legal for them to stay if there’s no rental collection and no need to register them as tenants in HDB? Is it legal for them to stay if there’s no rental collection and no need to register them as tenants in HDB?

    • Raj

      I am Employment Pass holder and stays in 5 room HDB unit (Couple with 2 kids + helper). Now My parents are planning to visit us and they will be staying with us for 1 month or so.

      Can they stay with us as MAX occupancy will be more than 6 members?
      If not what would be solution to overcome this situation? as I don’t want my parents to stay in a hotel room.

    • Grace

      I have one tenant who often have a visitor come and sleep overnight. She does not inform other tenants and worst is she has given extra key to the visitor so he can have full access to the house even if she is not around. Is that appropriate?

    • Savarimuthu Stephen

      Hi I’m stephen from india .I’m work permit holder .but service sector.can I register hdb

    • Mun Teng Wong

      Hi all,

      My owner , a young couple with 6 yo child.

      Currently theres 4 other tenants inc me living in the house.

      In this case , does it consider over the max occupancy limit?

      If we exclude the kid, theres only 6 adults living in the unit.

      in the case the house owner has 3-4 young kids, means they cannot rent out the room then?

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