According to Lianhe Wanbao and Mothership, a 75-year-old woman was arrested on February 4 for operating a mahjong parlour in her HDB flat. 10 other women aged between 22 and 88 were also arrested. The accused has allegedly operated the mahjong parlour out of her Teban Gardens flat in Jurong for the past eight years.
Before you start pulling down the blinds and sealing up your windows with duct tape to conceal all evidence of your home-kitchen, cookie-baking business, Asia Law Network reviews the kinds of home based businesses that you are allowed to run out of your home address.
Why was the aunty in the news article arrested?
The accused was likely arrested on suspicion of running a ‘common gaming house’. Pursuant to Section 2, Subsection 1 of the Common Gaming Houses Act, ‘common gaming house’ is defined as any place that is used for ‘gaming’ (the playing of any game where chance is involved to win money) and that is open to public access. Under the Common Gaming Houses Act, it is an offence to be ‘the owner, occupier, use, or keep a place as a common gaming house’.
So can I operate a business out of my HDB flat?
Yes. The HDB’s Home Based Small Scale System Scheme allows residents to use their HDB flats for small-scale, home based business activities to supplement their household income without requiring HDB’s approval.
However, these activities must not:
- adversely affect your neighbours’ living environment or cause any nuisance, e.g. noise, smoke, odour, dust, litter, high human/vehicle traffic;
- involve the use of heavy equipment or appliances that are not intended for domestic use;
- require additional workers or staff; or
- require storage or movement of goods.
You should also not put up any ‘physical or paid advertising for the business’ (examples listed on the HDB website: display of business signboard outside the flat and/ or on doors and windows, or advertising in newspapers or online, including mobile platforms)
Additionally, if your business activity or scale of the business grows to an extent that inconveniences your neighbours, you may be asked to stop the activity and relocate it to a retail or industrial space.
While the HDB’s Home Based Small Scale System Scheme guidelines mentioned above apply specifically to home based businesses operated in HDB flats, the URA’s guidelines apply universally to home based businesses run out of both public and private housing.
According to the URA website, home based businesses must meet the following criteria:
- No person outside the household is to be employed.
- No external advertisement/business signboard is to be displayed.
- No extraneous traffic is introduced to the site.
- No noise, smoke, smell, effluent or dust nuisances or danger should be posed to the surrounding residents.
- No loading and unloading of goods by vans and trucks.
- The activities must comply with the rules and regulations of other authorities.
What kind of home based businesses can I operate out of my flat?
As a general guideline, examples of permissible home based business activities listed on the HDB website include:
- Baking on a small scale
- Hairdressing, beauty, manicure, or pedicure services (however, massage services are not allowed in HDB flats)
- Private tuition for not more than 3 students at a time
- Sewing services
- Work as a freelance artist, journalist, photographer or writer.
According to the URA guidelines, examples of allowed home based business activities include:
- The resident does office work using a computer, which is linked to the office main computer
- The resident undertakes sewing work at home to supplement the household income
- A freelance artist/journalist/photographer/writer etc. operating in his/her own home, without employing anyone, and with no business activities conducted within the premises
- The resident bakes cakes at home on a small scale for sale to his/her friends, without turning the place into a bakery
- The resident conducts private tuition for not more than three students at any one time
- The resident provides hairdressing services to supplement household income, without employing any workers
- The resident undertakes piecemeal work from a factory in his/her home on a work rate basis, to supplement household income
Can I register my home address as my business address?
If you live in a HDB flat, then no. HDB flats cannot be used for business registration.
However, if you live in a private residence (e.g. a condominium), then you may register the address of your private residence as your business address, provided there is no material change of use of the residential premises.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to a practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.