You may have heard of The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill that was passed in Parliament on 7 April. Created to provide relief for individuals and businesses, the Act provides legal immunity to those who cannot fulfil their contractual obligations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this article, we’ll explain how it will affect you and how you can apply for the relief.
What does the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act cover?
From your wedding deposit to your Option to Purchase (OTP) fee, The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act protects your from a wide-range of contractual terms due to the pandemic.
However, it’s important to note that The Bill only covers contractual obligations to be performed on or after 1 February, but not contracts entered on or after 25 March. Right now, the Act is valid for 6 months, but the government might extend it to a year if needed.
Initially, The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures Act) only covered five types of contracts:
1. Bank loans to Singapore SMEs
2. Construction-related contracts (e.g. supply of materials)
3. Event or tourism-related contracts (e.g. wedding, conference, accommodation deposits/bookings)
4. Hire purchase or conditional sales agreements (e.g. hire-purchase cars, vehicle loans)
5. Leases and licenses for non-residential property (e.g. office, retail rent relief)
However, the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures Act) has been extended to help property buyers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
6-month ABSD extension for property buyers
Married Singaporean couples who plan to jointly buy or have bought a second property will now have a year instead of 6 months previously to sell their first property if they want to get the 12% ABSD remission for the second property.
To qualify for the extension, the second property will need to be purchased on or after 1 June 2020 and the schedule for the sale of the first property expired on or after 1 Feb 2020.
Recommended article: Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD): A Simple Guide for Property Buyers
Expansions to help buyers who have entered into agreements with private developers and HDB
On 13 May, the government further extended the relief to help residential property buyers who have trouble fulfilling their Option to Purchase (OTP), Sales and Purchase Agreement (S&P) and Agreement for Lease (AFL) contracts due to COVID-19.
This means that developers cannot forfeit the deposit/fee or terminate the contract if the buyer can proof that he/she is unable to pay the fees. During this period, the developer also cannot impose new charges, increase charges or interest rates beyond what is provided for in the contract.
However, this relief is only valid for contracts between buyers and private developers/HDB, and does not cover contracts between individual buyers and sellers.
It’s also important to note that like other contracts covered by the Act, these contracts must have been entered into before 25 March 2020, with contractual performance due on or after 1 Feb 2020. They will also last for 6 months, or up to 19 October 2020.
How couples can apply for the ABSD extension
If you meet the criteria and other conditions under the ABSD spouses remission, you can apply for the refund by sending an email to email@example.com with the subject “Temporary Relief Measures for ABSD Spouses Remission – Insert Property Address”, containing the following declaration/documents:
a. Declaration that:
i. On the date of purchase of the second residential property, each of the purchasers (i.e. the married couple) did not own interest in more than 2 residential properties,
ii. As at the date of sale of the first residential property,
• The couple remains married,
• There is no change of ownership in the second residential property at the time of sale of the first residential property, and
• The couple has not purchased or acquired any other residential property since the purchase of the second residential property;
b) Confirmation if the second residential property is a completed or uncompleted property at the time of purchase. If it is an uncompleted property, please confirm the date of TOP or CSC (whichever is earlier) of the second residential property;
c) A copy of the contract/agreement for the purchase of the second residential property; and
d) A copy of the contract/agreement for the sale of the first residential property.
The application for the refund of ABSD must be made within 6 months after the date of sale of the first residential property.
If you need more help, you can head to the IRAS website for more details.
How buyers can apply for the OTP and S&P relief from developers
Applying for OTP extension
If the developer is a licensed private developer and the property is not an executive condominium (EC), you’ll first need to serve a Notification for Relief on the developer by using the form provided by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw). Once you have served the Notification for Relief, the developer won’t be able to forfeit your booking fee before or on 19 October 2020.
Then, you’ll need to write an email to The Controller of Housing at firstname.lastname@example.org to get approval. Once its approved, you can seek permission from the developer to extend your OTP. The OTP will only be extended if the developer approves.
To find out whether the developer is a licensed developer, you can check it here.
If the developer is HDB, the property is an EC, or if it’s not a licensed developer, you’ll also need to serve the developer with a Notification for Relief by using this form. Like private developers, HDB won’t be able to forfeit your booking fee until after 19 October 2020 once you’ve submitted the Notification for Relief. Once that’s done, all you need to apply to HDB to seek the OTP extension.
Applying for S&P relief
Can’t pay your S&P agreement because of COVID-19? Similar to the OTP relief, you’ll need to serve a Notification for Relief by filling up the form provided by the MinLaw. Once you’ve served the Notification for Relief, the developer cannot terminate the S&P agreement until after 19 October 2020. The MinLaw recommends that buyers and developers come into agreement.
But what if the developer does not agree?
According to MinLaw, if the developer does not agree with the extension, the buyer or the developer will need to apply for an Assessor’s determination. Here’s the step-by-step guide on how to apply for it.
The Assessor will evaluate the circumstances and may make a decision that’s fair to both parties. These include the length of extension for the OTP, the terms of such extension, or whether the booking fee (or part thereof) should be refunded, should the purchase be aborted.
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