HDB needs access to fix leaks: Khaw
THE Housing Board should be empowered to enter a flat so that repairs for ceiling leaks can be performed more promptly, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday.
About 2,800, or a third of ceiling leak cases each year, take more than three months to resolve due to uncooperative neighbours, Mr Khaw wrote in a blog post.
Some upper-floor residents refuse entry to HDB to carry out repairs.
"This delays the repair unnecessarily and, meanwhile, the lower-floor residents suffer the inconveniences," he wrote.
"Minimally, HDB should be given the power to enter the flat for the purpose of carrying out the necessary investigations and repairs. We will need to amend the legislation to empower HDB to do so."
Ceiling leaks make up about a quarter of the complaints that HDB currently receives.
Both upper- and lower-floor flat owners are responsible for fixing leaky ceilings.
HDB said it first tries to persuade upper-floor residents to cooperate, and will involve grassroots leaders in the mediation process if necessary. "After repeated attempts, HDB will have no choice but to initiate legal action as a last resort, to compel the upper-floor owners to allow HDB access into their flats," it said.
HDB took legal action against an average of 120 flat owners who refused to cooperate each year since 2011. Last year alone, 154 flat owners received a lawyer's letter and, in some cases, a court order.
Mr Khaw pointed out that HDB's Goodwill Repair Assistance scheme, which subsidises repair costs for residents, has benefited 140,000 households since its inception in 2001.
Under the scheme, HDB bears half of the repair costs for leaks and spalling concrete, with the other half shared equally by upper and lower-floor flat owners. On average, flat owners pay about $180 for each ceiling leak repair.
The scheme does not cover the removal and replacement of fixtures and fittings.
Potong Pasir resident Louis Francis, who has had three leaks in his three-room flat since 2010, backs the move to facilitate repair works.
"Somebody has to repair it," said the 64-year-old retiree. "If not, it's not fair to the people living below."
But such repairs can get costly. Housewife Cheng Caixia, 50, a Woodlands Drive 62 resident, forked out about $800 when her neighbours below had a ceiling leak about a year ago. Her toilet bowl, sink and floor tiles had to be changed, and her cabinet and glass shower door torn down.
"But I was OK with it. At the end of the day, we have to think about others," she said.