Renting an HDB Flat in Singapore? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

You may have probably heard from somewhere (maybe your friends or a relative) that Singapore has one of the highest cost of living in Asia, as compared to most parts of the world. They’re not exactly wrong, but it’s all not that tough to live in this country, especially when the government offers subsidized housing for residents from all walks of life. This is possible through the Housing Development Board (HDB).

Also Read: How to Apply for a Work Permit Visa in Singapore

If you’re a first-timer here, you would hear a lot about HDB flats and that many people apply to rent for one.  In this guide, we will share all the salient points about HDB flat rentals and how this can make your life easier here in Singapore. Make sure to read until the end to learn more.

Renting an HDB Flat In Singapore? Here’s Everything You Need To Know
Credits: HDB / Facebook

Guide to Housing Development Board Rentals in Singapore

Over a million flats are located in 24 towns and 3 estates in Singapore. The country’s public housing system is unique as it offers residents a variety of homes and services.

They take into account the various needs of residents when it comes to housing. This process helps them create communities that are both safe and attractive.

That said, here are the objectives of Singapore’s HDB:

  • Provide affordable, quality homes: They develop public housing towns that meet the needs of residents. Through our research and development work, they aim to improve the quality of life in these communities.
  • Develop vibrant towns: Even as they provide various recreational and commercial amenities in the towns, they are also focused on ensuring that they meet the needs of the residents in the future. This is why they regularly update and improve the features and facilities in the towns and estates.
  • Focus on community living: Communities are the backbone of towns’ vibrancy. They are the place where residents can socialize and interact. Their policies and schemes are regularly updated to reflect the latest developments in the field. They are designed to support various national objectives, such as maintaining racial harmony. HDB branches are well-equipped to provide their staff with the necessary resources and support to ensure that their work is integrated within the communities they serve.

What is the Home Ownership Scheme?

The Home Ownership for the People Program was launched in 1964. This scheme provided citizens with the opportunity to own a home and build a stake in the country.

In 1968, the Central Provident Fund was allowed to be used for the downpayment and monthly mortgage loan installments. This has made home ownership very affordable.

Allocation and Pricing

To maintain a fair allocation of flats, various changes were made to the system to keep up with changes in circumstances and times.

In order to ensure a good racial mix within the various ethnic communities residing in public housing estates, the ethnic integration policy was implemented in 1989.

In pricing the flats, they have strived to keep them within the reach of the majority of buyers. To this end, they have introduced various grants and tax breaks to help home buyers get on the housing ladder.

Financial Planning

Aside from ensuring that the homes are affordable, they also encourage financial prudence and planning for the future. This is because buying a new flat requires securing an HDB loan.

The HLE letter explains the maximum loan eligibility and monthly installments that are available to the flat buyers. It avoids over-reliance on credit.

Home Protection Scheme

The HPS is a scheme that aims to protect the homes of our flat owners’ dependent children. This benefit is available to all households with a sole breadwinner.

Housing types

Early HDB flats were utilitarian and designed to maximize space usage. They were also built with the convenience of re-housers who were still living in squalid settlements.


  • Emergency
  • Improved


  • Emergency
  • Standard
  • Improved


  • Standard
  • Improved
  • New Generation
  • Model ‘A’
  • Simplified

HDB homes have evolved over the years from simple and basic flats to homes that cater to higher aspirations. There are various types of flats available to cater to different families.

Over the years, the surrounding areas around estates have been improved, with many of them now offering recreational facilities such as parks and playgrounds.

Everyone Can Afford An HDB Home

First-timer families

First-time buyers can either buy a new flat from HDBU or a resale flat. There are various schemes and grants available to help them get started.

New Flat: The CPF has also introduced various housing grants that help low- and middle-income households buy their first home. These grants are usually linked to a household’s income.

First-time married couples with a child will also benefit from the HDB’s various programs. These include the Parenthood Priority Scheme, which was introduced in January 2013, and the Sales of Balance exercises.

While waiting for their new homes to be completed, married couples with children below the age of 16 can also get temporary housing through the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme.

The MCPS has been enhanced since November 2014. This scheme now offers better chances of success for first-time and second-time families. In total, we have increased the number of flats allotted to these families.

Resale Flat: If they are buying a resale flat, they can get the CPF Housing Grant or reduce their mortgage loan to receive the initial payment. They can also get the AHG if they are buying near or with parents or married child.

Second-timer families

New flat: In May 2013, the BTO flat distribution quota was doubled to 30% for second-timers. This benefit is available to those who are divorced or widowed with a child below 16 years old.

From July 2013, the Step-Up Housing Grant was also introduced to help families upgrade to 3-room flats. This is to allow them to take advantage of the CPF Housing Grant to improve their rental properties.

Resale flat: Furthermore, second-timer families who purchase a resale flat with or near their parents/married child are eligible for the PHG.

Applicants comprising first-timers and second-timers

In July 2013, the sales exercise was changed, which allowed couples with a first-time applicant and a second-time applicant to get the same priority in flat allocation.

Multi-generation families

To encourage multi-generation families to live together, a higher income ceiling was established for them. This benefit is also provided for married couples and children.

The MGPS is a scheme that gives priority to parents and their married children when it comes to buying flats. Both parents and the child can apply for the same flats.

Since 2013, the 3Gen flats have been launched to cater to the multi-generation families who live under one roof. These 4 bedroom and 3 bathroom flats measure about 115 square meters each.


HDB homeownership is not only for families, it also caters to singles. Under the JSS or the SRI, eligible individuals can buy 2-room Flexi flats in non-mature estates or from the resale market.


Studio Apartments was launched in 1998 to cater to the needs of the elderly. These homes are designed to meet the safety and independence of the residents.

The 2-room Flexi Scheme was introduced in 2015. It provided flexible rental options for seniors and families with varying age needs.

For the elderly, who would like to age in familiar surroundings, they have a Senior Priority Scheme. This scheme provides for 40% of the 2-room Flexi flats to be set aside for them.

Features Offered by HDB Housing

First prefabrication contract

In 1980, the first successful project for prefabrication was the construction of 4- and 3-room flats in Tampines. This technology is widely used in the building industry today.

This discipline is very useful for our building programme as it allows us to reduce manual labor and increase site productivity. For instance, the construction of the Pinnacle @ Duxton, which was constructed off-site, exhibited engineering breakthroughs.

Sustainable development

As the managing agency of over 10,000 residential blocks in Singapore, HDB is committed to supporting the development of sustainable communities. Through the Sustainable Development (SD) framework, we have created a set of guiding principles that will help towns develop successfully.

Treelodge @ Punggol

Treelodge @ Punggol is an eco-precinct that was launched in 2007. It features a variety of green features that are designed to reduce energy consumption and water usage.

My Waterway @ Punggol

My Waterway @ Punggol was Singapore’s first man-made waterway when it was completed in 2011.

The Waterways project has been awarded numerous awards, including the 2013 Chicago Athenaeum’s International Architecture Award. It is a testimony to our commitment to providing sustainable solutions that meet the needs of today’s society.

Living laboratory

Punggol Eco-town is a living laboratory that tests-bed new sustainable initiatives. It enables the developers and planners to develop new solutions and solutions in a quality living environment.

HDB’s new eco-friendly initiatives are designed to be replicated in other new developments after they have been proven to be feasible and cost-effective.

HDB Greenprint

The HDB GreenPrint is a community-driven approach that brings sustainable living into estates. It was piloted at the Yuhua estate in 2015. The program was then expanded to include other estates in 2016.

Solar capacity building programme

Through their solar capability building programme, HDB is testing the viability of large-scale solar technology for public housing. The goal is to provide sustainable and reliable energy to residents.

Through the Solar Capability Building Programme, the Government of Singapore identified and built solar capability building facilities in various public institutions and agencies. This program accelerated the utilization of solar power in the country.

HDB has awarded 2 SolarNova tenders, which will see 1,500 HDB blocks with solar PV panels installed across various towns in the region.

As part of the SolarNova Programme, HDB has installed 220 MWp of solar energy in 2020 to reduce its carbon footprint.

HDB’s Research and Development (R&D) efforts

The Building Research Institute is a research arm of the Building Research Centre, which is focused on sustainable building and environmental technology. Its key R&D initiatives are carried out in the following clusters:

Energy – To improve the energy efficiency of its facilities and operations. This strategy involves identifying and implementing energy-efficient solutions that can reduce environmental impacts.

Urban greenery – This project aims to develop greening solutions that can help cities soften the impact of urban living. Key areas of research include biophilic towns and green roofs.

Waste and water – To improve the efficiency of our environment through the study of water conservation and waste management.

Living environment – This project aims to develop sustainable urban living strategies that are inclusive and resilient to climate change.

Building technology – To achieve high-quality housing through the use of advanced building technologies. This includes virtual design and construction, pre-fabulation, lift technology, and resource management.

How To Get Started

1.      Search for HDB flats for rent

Getting started is always the hardest part, especially when you don’t know where to start. There are so many options out there that it can be hard to know where to start.

Having a qualified agent will help you shortlist the best properties for sale and arrange viewings.

There are also more and more direct owners who are also selling their homes for rent through platforms like Carousell. It’s not as hard to find as it used to be.

2.      Get the best rental rate

It’s important that the property you’re looking for is comparable to the competitive rate and within your budget.

To get a good idea of what rental rates should be in your area, check out HDB’s quarterly statistical report.

Tip: It’s generally recommended that people spend no more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. This means that if the rental price is stated without utilities, factor in an estimated budget.

Changing the air-conditioning in your home every night could cost you up to $100 a month. However, switching to a fan would only require $5 a month.

3.      Get Into Details Like Eligibility And Restrictions

Each HDB estate (including rentals!) has a non-citizen quota.

If you’re not a Malaysian or a Singapore Citizen, but still want to live in HDB, then check with your landlord to make sure that the quota has been met.

The following are the sole exclusions for Singaporeans, Malaysians, and Permanent Residents:

  • If you’re already an HDB owner, you’re only allowed to rent out your existing flat if it’s been rented out within a month of its purchase.
  • If you’re divorced or separated from your spouse, only one party is eligible to rent.

There’s a maximum number of occupants that can be in a single HDB flat, whether you’re renting the whole flat or just a bedroom.

For a 1- to 2-room flat, the maximum number of tenants is four.  Meanwhile, in a three-room or bigger flat, the maximum number of tenants is six.

4.      View the HDB Flat and the Neighbourhood

There are many reasons to love an HDB flat, and each of these properties has its own unique characteristics. Take a look at the various neighborhoods with HDB flats.

Punggol is one example where the new BTO flats have brought a slew of young couples and families. Expect the area to become especially lively during weekends, as well as newborn baby-haters!

Securing Your Rental Flat

1.       Prepare a Letter of Intent (LOI) and make a Good Faith Deposit.

Before you can start looking for The One, you need to submit a Letter of Intent. This step will help you decide on the type of unit that fits you best.

Having included these terms in your LOI will serve as a reference point when you and your landlord draft the tenancy agreement.

The Good Faith Deposit is typically one month’s worth of rent. It’s used to pay the first month’s rent or keep it as a security deposit once you’ve signed the contract.

2.      Sign the Tenancy Contract.

The Tenancy Agreement should contain all of the details that the landlord needs to know about the situation, including the terms of the lease.

This should be provided by the landlord, though it’s also fine if they agree to the terms before you sign. Also, make sure that the terms of the Tenancy Agreement are included in your Letter of Intent.

Tips:  For a rental HDB flat, the minimum lease term is 6 months, and the maximum is 3 years. If all the occupants are Malaysians or Singaporeans, the lease term is 3 years.

(Non-Malaysian foreigners were only allowed to have a maximum lease term of 2 years starting 2019.)

Joint tenancy vs separate tenancies

You should also be aware that there are two different types of Tenancy agreements: a Joint Tenancy and separate tenancies.

A Joint Tenancy is a type of arrangement where all parties share the responsibility for paying the rent.

If each of you signs a separate tenancy agreement, then you’re responsible for both your own and the other’s expenses.

3.      Pay the rental stamp duty

The rental stamp duty is a levy on the TA that is equal to 0.4 percent of the total rent over the term of your lease.

If you signed the Tenancy Agreement within 14 days of its execution, then you should pay the rental stamp duty.

What To Do Before Moving In:

Perform an Inventory Check

You’ll also want to make a copy of the inventory checklist to document everything that was provided with the property.

Take photos of all the furniture, appliances, and other parts of the house that are in good condition. This will help prove that everything is in good order.

Tips On Renting A Flat Or A Bedroom

Now that you know what the conditions are for renting a flat from the Open market, we have some guidelines and tricks for you.

  • Make sure that the flat or bedroom that you are interested in is the one that belongs to the rightful owner. Visit it and ask for HDB approval to rent it out.
  • Before you rent a flat, make sure that the person who is supposed to own it is the rightful owner. This can be done by asking for proof of ownership.
  • When the owner of the flat applies for approval to rent their flat, the details of the tenant must also be provided.

Video: How To Find An Accommodation (Including HDB Flats) For OFWs In Singapore

Heres a video presented by an OFW (Dan Sihay/YouTube) based in Singapore. He talks about the kinds of accommodations you can find as an expat here in Singapore – one of which, is the HDB flat, as we have discussed in this post. Of course, one of the main goals of his content is to give an overview of the options for accommodations you have when living here in Singapore and explain the advantages and disadvantages of each. Then he also gave some important tips on how to find the right accommodation fit for your budget, purpose, and job here in Singapore. Since Singapore is quite a small country, it’s important that you consider your options for the right accommodation so that you won’t regret your choice, and eventually seek out a new one sooner than you expected. Of course, the goal is to find that place you can come home to every day, where you feel safe, secure, and well-rested. After all, according to Dan, your health is your biggest investment when working overseas or anywhere for that matter – and part of how you take care of yourself is finding that ideal place where you can relax, rest, and recharge. This should support your goals in providing for yourself or your family, or whatever your goal is for working and living in Singapore.

Final Thoughts

Renting an HDB Flat In Singapore? Here’s Everything You Need To Know
Credits: HDB / Facebook

Over half of young couples in Singapore are thinking of starting their married life in a rented flat. That being said, a lot of people are now thinking about renting a flat instead of buying one these days. These public rental flats that HDB provides are for lower-income households. They are also available for families who are waiting for the completion of their new flats. If you are an existing flat owner and would like to rent a flat, make sure to note the applicable regulations and fees. If you fall under any of the categories listed in this guide, you should know that there are several options you can take to rent an HDB flat here in Singapore. Just make sure to keep a copy of this guide so you won’t get lost in this process.

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