Two property agents fined for marketing empty BTO flats that didn’t meet 5-year MOP rule

SINGAPORE – Two property agents have been fined by the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) for marketing Build-To-Order (BTO) flats that did not fulfil the five-year minimum occupation period, or MOP.

Ms Christina Au was fined $1,000 on Jan 18 and censured for her involvement in marketing a Housing Board flat in Yishun Street 51, while Ms Isabelle Loo was fined $500 on Tuesday and censured for marketing a flat in 110A Depot Road, according to a public register of estate agents that detailed the disciplinary actions.

In a statement to The Straits Times on Tuesday, CEA said two agents had breached the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care in failing to comply with regulations that apply to HDB flats. It did not name the agents or the agencies they work for.

The code sets out the performance standard required of estate agents and salespersons when carrying out estate agency work, and in their dealings with clients and the public.

According to the public register on the CEA website, the two agents are from ERA Realty Network.

A disciplinary note on the register said Ms Au had tried to facilitate the resale of the Yishun flat despite knowing that the sellers had not physically occupied it and did not fulfil the MOP.

Meanwhile, Ms Loo had held viewings of the Depot Road flat for prospective buyers, even though the owners were not eligible to sell the flat on the open market at the time. This was because they had “not physically occupied the flat for the duration of the MOP”, said the register.

When contacted, Ms Au and Ms Loo declined to comment.

ERA Singapore key executive officer Eugene Lim said it was “very unfortunate” that these two incidents had occurred.

“We have taken this opportunity to reinforce (our agents’) understanding of this,” he said.

Mr Lim added that in Ms Loo’s case, one of the owners had shown her proof that a court order had been issued ordering that the Depot Road flat be sold on the open market. She, therefore, believed erroneously that the property could be sold.

“This is a timely reminder to the public that even if a court order has been issued for a matrimonial property to be sold, this is still subject to HDB’s MOP requirement,” he said.

In response to queries, a spokeswoman for HDB said it had moved to repossess the Yishun and Depot Road flats, and one of them was already in its keeping.

“Investigations revealed that the flat owners had not fulfilled their MOP when they put their units up for sale on the open market,” she said.

Flats that are compulsorily acquired will be put up for sale in Sale of Balance Flats exercises.

“HDB takes the violation of MOP rules seriously and will not hesitate to carry out enforcement actions,” the spokeswoman added.

Owners who do not occupy their flats during the MOP may have their units compulsorily acquired by HDB, be fined up to $50,000, or issued written warnings.

CEA told ST that two other agents, who had marketed seemingly vacant HDB flats in Bukit Batok East Avenue 6 and Henderson Road, were found to have not breached the code.

Last December, ST reported that several unrenovated BTO flats that appeared to have never been lived in were put up for sale on property listing portals.

This came after media outlet Mothership reported that a five-room HDB flat in Yishun Street 51 had allegedly been vacant for eight years, as the buyers had moved into their family’s landed property. Ms Au listed it on PropertyGuru with an asking price of $690,000.

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