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Bertha HarianBertha Harian


Home sweet home

This is not about National Day, despite the headline above. It’s about that physical thing – the brick and mortar place we live in.

A couple of open secrets are now, ahh, out in the open. So a parent complains in the ST Forum pages of the rent-and-register gambit of parents desperate to get their kids into a school. They rent a place near the school and go under the phase that favours children living near by. It’s been happening for some time now. Should we be worried? I suppose one worry is that it favours parents who can afford to do this over those who can’t.

Is it a big problem? Seems to me it can be easily checked out. Like getting the school to not just ask for place of residence, but whether it’s a rental. Then again, sounds a lot like infringement of privacy. No business of the school to ask if I own a home or rent one or merely squatting in one. Another way is to find out what sort of rentals those nearby homes can fetch. I mean, if it’s good, I might be tempted to do the same and rent out my place! Have a very very short term lease, rent it out for a bomb, and later move back into home sweet home. Very entreprenuerial…..

We’ve been closing one eye on this, just like we close one eye on the “lock one room” gambit that HDB flat owners resort to when they want to sub-let their whole place but haven’t met the minimum five-year occupation period. So long as tenants play along, there’s not much the HDB can do even if the locked room hasn’t been unlocked in months. (Unless HDB can demand that it be “un-locked”?)

It’s interesting to read in ST that one man is taking the HDB to court over this, claiming that he wasn’t given a full hearing before he got booted out of his own place. What’s more interesting is whether the court has the power to review decisions by the HDB. Legislation is approved by Parliament and if there’s a problem, the courts can look at the intent of Parliament. At least, that’s my layman’s reading…But there’s a whole tonne of regulations that accompany the law that’s entirely under the Minister’s control and discretion. Ministers have plenty of executive power. People always get surprised when they get fined, penalised etc for some rule being broken. Too often, they forgot to read the fine print. Then they go to their MPs to get their fine waived etc…and they thank the politicians if they manage to do so.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone looks over the regulations before they become regulations. Or do we simply trust that the G and its civil servants will get them right. Still there have been instances when public opinion has played a part. Just ask the poor transport operators….

Anyway, it will be interesting to see whether the courts can weigh in someone else’s behalf and look at whether the process is fair. Or whether the last word belongs to the executive.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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