Can Married Couples Still Decouple Their HDB Ownership?

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On 1st April 2016, there was word going around saying that married couples can no longer “decouple” their HDB ownership. Is this an April Fool’s joke? Or is this for real?

“Decoupling” of HDB ownership refers to one of the co-owners of an HDB flat giving up his/her share of the flat to the other party, typically between a married couple. Decoupling has gained traction the last few years, mainly because of additional buyers’ stamp duty (ABSD) rules that tax purchasers of multiple properties.

There are two types of decoupling – one with monetary consideration (also known as “resale part-share”), and one without (i.e. by way of gift).

HDB’s website clearly states:

Resale part-share is not allowed between a married couple or when the purpose of the transaction is solely to include another family member as a co-owner of the flat.

However, do note this only applies to married couples who own an HDB flat. For other scenarios like in the case of a divorce or when the joint-owners are father and son for example, flat owners can still apply for resale part-share, subject to “HDB’s eligibility schemes and criteria”.

In other words, you may still do it on a case by case basis for these scenarios, but resale part-share is clearly not allowed for married couples.

How about decoupling by way of gift?

According to HDB,

The application for transfer of flat ownership (ie. by way of gift) is subject to HDB’s approval based on the prevailing eligibility conditions at the point when we receive the application.

 

So unless there is a “change in existing family structure”, under ordinary circumstances, you cannot transfer flat ownership to your spouse.

We have also verified with HDB that this new ruling came into effect on 1st April 2016.

In conclusion, it seems that HDB has just covered the loophole that had allowed married couples to decouple their HDB flats in the past. Unless there are special circumstances, married couples can NO LONGER decouple their HDB ownership going forward. And no, it was NOT an April Fool’s joke!

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