A cautionary property tale of joint tenancy, abuse and escaping to a safe haven.
By Khalil Adis
As I watched Incident in a Ghostland last night from the comfort and safety of my home, I cannot help but notice some parallels between the characters and myself.
This psychological horror drama thriller film tells a story of how a mom and her two daughters were ambushed in their home by murderous intruders.
One of her daughters, Beth, conjured up a dream while being physically abused by her sadistic captors in a bid to escape her trauma.
Still being held captive by the intruders, she would go on to write a bestselling book of the same title in the imaginary world that she had created.
For me, however, the abuse that my mom and I had encountered was not a work of fiction.
As a way to deal with it, I wrote a book called Property Buying for Gen Y which would then go on to become a bestseller and was a turning point in my career.
While my story is nothing like Incident in a Ghostland, the physical, psychological and emotional scars still remain until today.
History of abuse
It is hard to believe a family member that I initially grew up with can turn out to be so abusive.
My parents had divorced and as a result, we were living with our guardians.
My mom and I lived with an uncle while the other family member, was sent to live with another uncle, owing to her very difficult behaviour.
We then got a flat together in Taman Jurong where I was living my mom and this other family member when I was around 18-years-old.
I remember thinking - “Finally! We have a place to call our own.”
However, little did I know this family member would turn out to become a monster.
The first instance of abuse occurred when I was kicked out of home at 21-years-old.
I recall having my bag thrown out of the house and living temporarily at the police station where I was posted at for my national service.
Back then, I did not know any property laws and did not know any better.
I then rented a place for a while near to Admiralty MRT station.
To pay for my rent, I would give tuition.
The subsequent abuse happened in 2014 when the family member came back with her family after having lived overseas.
My mom and I were on the constant receiving end of abuse, bullying and threats to kick us out of our family home.
Mind you, I was paying for the mortgage and taking care of my mom.
Things got so bad that my mom and I had to lodge a police report and sought help from my MP Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Thankfully, I now have my own home and a safe place for my mom and I away from the abuser.
I subsequently dedicated Property Buying for Gen Y to my MP.
Complications of joint tenancy
While you can walk away from a relationship, it is not so straightforward when it comes to property matters with a family member.
This is especially so if the property is held jointly as in the case of my mom and this family member.
Under a joint tenancy agreement, two individuals agree to jointly hold a property.
While this is the most common method of ownership as it is less costly, a joint tenancy exposes one family member to the financial risks, liabilities and other problems created by the other family member.
In my case, since moving to another country, this family member has not been paying for her mortgage since 2011.
My uncle had intervened with the agreement that I pay for the mortgage until I got my own home.
However, once I received the keys to my home, the other family member became uncontactable.
The HDB subsequently contacted us and told us this family member cannot pay for the house and wants my mom to take over the mortgage.
As a result, my mom now bears the burden.
We then decided to put up the home for rental as my mom is not working and is ill.
The rental income is now helping to cover the mortgage as well as for my mom’s savings.
We also paid the other family member her portion less expenses.
However, the constant threats from the abuser still remain.
If you are among the unlucky few who happen to own a property jointly with a toxic family member, this is what you should do.
#1: Have proper documentation
Having a problematic joint tenant will likely end up in a legal battle.
Therefore, you need to have proper documentation in case it does end up in court.
This includes whatever payments that you have been paying for the upkeep of the home, property tax and so on.
Other useful documents including emails detailing a pattern of abuse, police reports and other documents to show that the other party has not been paying their home mortgage.
Having all these documents will help bolster your case should it end up in court.
#2: Speak to a lawyer
When it comes to a joint tenancy agreement, the right of survivorship means that the other family member takes control of the whole property when the other party passes away,
This can be very problematic when you are dealing with a family member who has not been paying and is abusive.
Speak to a lawyer on what your options are so that you are fully prepared should a death occur in your family.
#3: Do not react
An abusive person needs to be in control and instigating a fight is one such way of doing so.
While it can be very difficult to not react when the other person is shouting and accusing, you need to realise that the other person is not acting rationally
By not reacting, you have taken away their power to push your buttons.
Stay cool and take the high road all the way.
#4: Minimise contact
By minimising contact with the abuser, you are ensuring your own safety and that things do not escalate out of control.
Focus only on the points concerning the house and steer clear from any arguments.
Do not get sucked into the drama.
#5: Learn to forgive
No matter what has happened, each person deserves to be happy.
When I speak about forgiveness, it is not for the other person but more for yourself.
By learning to forgive, the other person no longer holds any power on you.
I remember how empowering it was when I moved to my own home as the other family member now can no longer bully my mom and I.
You have the right to be treated with respect, to be safe and to have a wonderful life away from the abuser.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development defines violence as physical injury, direct or indirect threats, sexual assault, emotional and psychological torment, damage to property, social isolation or any behaviour which causes a person to live in fear.
My mom and I have experienced some of those forms of abuse described.
While it is hard to believe that your own flesh and blood can turn their back against you, family violence is very real.
In closing, it is my hope by sharing this cautionary tale that others in a similar situation will be spared the agony of what my mom and I have had to endure.
If you have a family member who is abusive or know a family who is being abused, do not hesitate to call the authorities. You can find out more at Break The Silence.
Housing affordability remains a serious issue as there are still many Malaysians who cannot afford to buy a home. To solve this, Malaysia can take a cue from Singapore's public housing scheme which houses 80 per cent of its population.
By Khalil Adis
Ask any young Malaysians and chances are many are still unsure if they can buy their first home.
Their lack of knowledge, financial literacy, inability to get a loan and the lack of supply of such homes across Malaysia are further exacerbating the Malaysian housing issue.
From Johor to Kuala Lumpur, there is currently a demand-supply mismatch whereby most new launches in the market are priced above RM500,000.
This is far beyond what the average Malaysian can afford.
According to the first quarter of 2018 data from the National Property and Information Centre (NAPIC), Selangor has the highest number of existing stock of residential units followed by Johor and Kuala Lumpur at 1,516,960, 795,363 and 471,475 units respectively.
With Budget 2019 to be announced in November, perhaps the Malaysian government can take a cue from Singapore how the city-state is able to house 80 per cent of its population.
Step 1: Have a single affordable housing agency
In Singapore, there is only one government agency called the Housing & Development Board (HDB) which is tasked to provide affordable housing for every Singaporean.
In comparison, in Malaysia, there are so many affordable housing programmes being rolled out by the state and federal governments such as Rumah Milik Mampu, Rumah Selangorku, PR1MA, My First Home, Program Perumaha Rakyat and the list goes on.
This confuses the public.
The government should consolidate the affordable housing segment under one single government agency much like the HDB model.
Recently, Zuraida Kamaruddin, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, was in Singapore to study the HDB model.
By having it under one government agency umbrella, this will enable the federal government to better gauge demand from the public.
This leads to the next point.
Step 2: Build demand-driven homes
In Singapore, the HDB builds homes that are demand-driven called the Built-to-Order (BT0) scheme.
The public is then invited to apply for the various homes that are on offer in different parts of Singapore.
By doing so, this enables the HDB to gauge demand from the public and allocate homes using a balloting system.
The balloting system will then inform applicants of the status of their application.
If Malaysia were to follow such a system, this will help to solve the current demand-supply mismatch in the market and build homes according to demand.
Step 3: Introduce grants and subsidies
In Singapore, a first-time applicant can enjoy a housing grant called the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) and Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) of up to S$40,000 depending on one's household income.
To qualify for the AHG, applicants must apply for a 2-room flat or larger with an income ceiling of S$5,000 per month,
Applicants must also be employed at the time of application and be at least in employment for the past one year during the housing application.
On top of that applicants must not be an owner of any other properties in Singapore or overseas.
Applicants can also qualify for additional grants under the SHG here or if they live close to their parents.
By introducing such grants, it lowers the entry price to buy a home.
Likewise, if similar grants are introduced in Malaysia, it will mean more Malaysians can afford to buy their first home.
You can read more about the scheme here:
Think about it.
Step 4: Introduce housing loans direct from the housing ministry
In Singapore, most Singaporeans will opt to get a loan directly from the HDB which gives a concessionary interest rate at 2.6 per cent.
This means, regardless of the economy, the interest rate will remain the same unlike taking a bank loan.
In addition, the HDB is more compassionate if say, one is unable to service their loans.
The HDB will still require you to pay your monthly mortgage but will work out a plan that will ensure you will still have a roof over your head.
However, banks are less forgiving when you take a bank loan and will not hesitate to repossess your flat if you do not pay your mortgages on time.
In Malaysia, applicants must apply for a bank loan.
However, due to non-payment of PTPTN as well as bad credit, some applicants find their loans being rejected.
Perhaps, a way to get around it is to have a housing loan disbursed by the housing ministry with its own set of rules similar to the HDB.
Step 5: Introduce a rent-to-own scheme (for those who can't afford downpayment)
While there is no rent-to-own scheme in Singapore, this mode of housing ownership is getting popular in Malaysia.
For example, Ayer Holding introduced a ‘Stay & Own' scheme for their Epic Residence and Foreston projects whereby part of the rent will be converted to the downpayment.
This not only provides a temporary solution for those who urgently need a home but also a form of security
You can read more about the scheme here:
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While this is the stuff of every Singaporean home owners’ nightmare, it is better to err on the side of the caution by knowing what happens when you break the law.
In Singapore where 80 per cent of the population lives in government- owned flats, (popularly known as Housing & Development Board or HDB flats), losing the roof over your head is really a big deal.
Being government-owned, there are strict laws and regulations in place governing HDB flats. They include a minimum occupation period (MOP) of five years and a minimum rental period of six months per application when renting out your HDB flats.
According to the Housing & Development Board, this is necessary “as it may disrupt the living environment and pose security concerns for our residents”.
Take the example of two home owners whose flats were seized in 2014 for illegally renting them out to tourists. In both cases, the two owners had openly flouted HDB laws by renting them out on a daily basis.
While there is no latest data as of 2018, the numbers could be higher due to the popularity of AirBnb listings. Between January 2012 to 2014, for instance, the HDB had seized 202 flats for breaking the law.
So what can lead to such confiscations? Here are some of the common scenarios:
#1: You illegally rent out your property
Every HDB flat has a MOP of five years. us, you are not allowed to rent out your flat if you have not reached the MOP.
#2: You rent out for a short-term period
AirBnb type of accommodations are not allowed in HDB flats as the minimum rental period for each tenant must be 6 months per application. us, flat owners are not allowed to rent out their flats or bedrooms on a short-term basis.
#3: You did not register with the HDB after renting out your flat
Granted, you have fulfilled the MOP, it is still against the law if you do not register the particulars of your tenants with the HDB.
#4: Your tenants are involved in illegal activities
Illicit businesses like prostitution in the heartlands have become rife and a common problem nowadays. While the tenants are the ones breaking the law, the onus is on the owners to do regular spotchecks to make sure your tenants are not involved in such illegal businesses as this may affect the harmony of your neighbourhood.
#5: You bought a private property before the minimum occupation period is up
Owning a HDB flat is a privilege and not a right. By buying a private property in Singapore or overseas, before the minimum occupation period is up, you are essentially denying a more deserving Singaporean a roof over their head.
#6: You have not been paying your mortgage
This is a last minute resort if you have persistently not been clearing your arrears despite HDB’s best intentions. In this case, the HDB has the right to confiscate your flat. However, such households will be given alternative accommodation such as downsizing to a flat that they can afford or renting a flat directly with the HDB.
With the exception of the last scenario, losing your HDB flat can have very grave implications. Let’s take a look at them:
Implication No: 1: Financial losses
Assuming you had broken the laws, the HDB has the right to take back your flat at the price that it was purchased after deducting a penalty.
While the HDB does not leave you financially destitute, this also means you will not be able to enjoy the capital appreciation on your flat.
Let’s take the case of a property agent, Poh Boon Kay whose HDB flat was repossessed by the HDB in 2010 after he and his wife was found to have illegally sublet his home.
While they both had bought the HDB flat from the open market at S$150,000, he was reportedly paid S$125,000 after deducting the penalties. At the time of the confiscation, his flat was worth S$320,000. That’s almost a loss of S$200,000!
Implication No: 2 No roof over your head
Unlike the last scenario, because you had broken the law, you’re on your own. This not only creates a huge fiinancial burden as you will now have to either rent or buy a private property, but also deal with the emotional stress and uncertainty of not having a roof over your head.
While HDB is an asset, it can also lead to huge financial losses if you break the law. The takeaway is this, it is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to government-owned flats in Singapore as the repercussions far outweigh one’s ignorance and financial greed.
This article was first published by Asian Property Review, March-April 2018 issue
An independent analysis from yours truly