Even if that space is big enough to fit your second home, that area outside your HDB flat — yes, the space you decorate with plants, shoes, a garden chair and IKEA faux grass tiles — likely does not belong to you. It’s actually designated as an HDB common area.
Yup, the corridor is not ‘free extra space’, and the HDB riser is not for your broom and umbrella storage. It’s also not your personal mail box for online shopping deliveries. Those grab bars you use to hang your potted plants? They are actually to assist the elderly.
It’s common to see rows and rows of plants and other personal effects lining HDB common corridors, and many times, these obstruct the corridor and pose a hazard.
Personally, I’ve almost knocked into stuff while navigating a narrow walkway (that just became even narrower) in a HDB block. Something like what happened with this Canberra resident. Oh, and remember the case where a Simei resident lined up seven fridges along the HDB common corridor? Or the crazy plant lady at Pasir Ris?
Let’s look at what’s allowed and what’s not for your HDB riser, corridor and common areas:
The HDB staircase landing area is not your storeroom.
SCDF’s stance is clear for the staircase area. Despite the ample space the stairwell/staircase landing provides, no one is to put anything there — yes, even if it seems like the railings are dusty because people rarely climb stairs these days.
You shouldn’t even be blocking the access to the staircase.
During a fire, lift service is usually halted for safety reasons and the staircase is the only means of escape for residents in danger. By keeping the HDB stairwell clear, everyone can escape safely and quickly from the building. Also, if there are flammable items near a staircase, this may hamper escape as well.
The HDB riser is not your broom cupboard or parcel drop-off point.
I think many of us are guilty of using the HDB riser as storage spaces; for example the delivery man comes with your parcel when you aren’t home and you both agree for it to be left in your riser.
Technically, we should not be doing that, as SCDF clearly says that there should be no placement/storage of items within the HDB dry/wet riser compartment.
Even worse if our items obstruct any access to fire-fighting or fire safety provisions within these risers.
In addition to the HDB riser, we shouldn’t block access to other SCDF fire safety and fire-fighting equipment such as the breeching inlet, fire alarm panel, fire hosereel and so on. Can you imagine if there’s a life-or-death situation but our brave firemen lose precious minutes trying to move your stuff away to connect their hose to the water source?
Woe betide you if you even dare to padlock the HDB riser to safeguard your belongings that shouldn’t even be in there!
You can still put your shoe racks outside your unit, but…
Hold your horses, you may not need to remove your shoe rack from outside your HDB flat just yet. It’s still allowed, but with some conditions attached.
According to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), shoe racks are permitted if they:
- Are used for keeping your shoes only and not a higgly piggly pile of stuff that can easily catch fire (like discarded carton boxes and a stack of unwanted flyers).
- Don’t block the way — you’ll need to leave at least 1.2m of space along the common corridor.
However, if your common corridor is less than 1.2m wide, you can’t put anything there else you may obstruct emergency escape routes and just block the way for your fellow neighbours.
Sian, so many rules. Can’t I just buy the area in front of my unit?
Plot twist — did you know that you can actually buy the area in front of your unit (aka the HDB recess area)?
Sale of Recess Area Scheme
As always, there are terms and conditions attached before HDB will even consider selling you this extra space under the Sale of Recess Area Scheme.
Some of these include:
- You can buy it if there are no service ducts such as gas pipes, water meters and electrical ducts in the space
- You can buy it if the space meets technical requirements relating to design, access, fire safety and ventilation
- You cannot buy it if your flat is built after 1996 or under a Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) project
- You cannot buy it if your flat is located next to a corner unit (i.e. you are blocking your neighbour)
If you’re fortunate enough to purchase the recess area, this “extra” space then becomes part of your house, and HDB owners have renovated it to their liking, such as an enclosed garden or a fancy corridor leading to their main unit.
The perils of cluttering HDB common areas
I know we all “close one eye” as long as it doesn’t affect us, but after a recent fire in the block of flats opposite mine, I realised how important it is to ensure that we don’t clutter common areas and obstruct access to fire-fighting equipment.
Clutter could also pose as a fire hazard (i.e. an errant, still-lit cigarette butt somehow finds its way to your belongings…), become killer litter (items precariously balanced on the wall of a common corridor), block the path of a wheelchair user, turn into a mosquito breeding ground or attract rats, cockroaches and other pests.
Just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean it’s all fine and dandy. Let’s be responsible home owners and neighbours. Perhaps it’s time to do some clearing this weekend?
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This article was written by Mary Wu, who hopes to share what she’s learnt from her home-buying and renovation journey with PropertyGuru readers. When she’s not writing, she’s usually baking up a storm or checking out a new cafe in town.