From next year, HDB owners can rent their flats or bedrooms to non-Malaysian foreigners for up to two years, six months more than currently allowed.
The revised maximum tenancy period will apply to applications received from Jan 1, the Housing Board said in a statement yesterday.
This revision will give flat owners greater flexibility to secure a longer tenancy period with non-citizen tenants who may have work/immigration passes that are valid for a longer period of two years, HDB added.
The minimum rental period for an HDB flat remains at six months.
Owners currently renting out their flat or bedrooms to non-Malaysian foreign tenants with HDB's approval can continue to do so for the remaining approved duration.
The maximum tenancy period for Singaporeans and Malaysians remains unchanged at three years. There is no maximum period for tenants in private homes.
he maximum rental period for non-Malaysian foreigners was reduced from three years to 18 months in March 2013 to prevent foreign enclaves.
On why the latest revision for non-Malaysian foreigners did not match the three-year maximum term for Malaysians, an HDB spokesman told The Straits Times that there were "close historical and cultural links between Malaysians and Singaporeans".
Welcoming the change, property analysts said it would provide more certainty and less hassle for both landlords and tenants, though the impact may not be seen immediately in the current soft rental market.
Latest figures show that rentals in November had dropped 15.8 per cent from their peak in August 2013.
SENSE OF SECURITY
Ms Carolyn Goh, a spokesman for PropNex Realty, told The New Paper: "The change will give tenants a better sense of security as they will no longer need to look for alternative housing after a year and a half, which is a short period."
Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy of OrangeTee and Tie, said the impact may be felt only later as "tenants may still prefer a shorter lease period in the current market where rents are generally on a downtrend".
She added: "However, the rental market is cyclical so when it recovers, tenants may appreciate having the flexibility of securing a longer tenancy period to lock in the prevailing rental rates.
"Landlords also generally prefer longer leases where possible."
Foreign renters, such as Ms Kay Thi Swe Tun, 25, were not fussed by the change.
The postgraduate student from Myanmar, who has been renting a bedroom in a Clementi flat for six months, told The Straits Times that it was unlikely to have a big impact on her.
"My landlord and I have agreed to give each other one month's notice if we need to terminate the tenancy. Given the current rental climate, I think there is no big difference whether the term limit is 11/2 or two years," Ms Kay added.
The HDB spokesman said that more than 43,000 flats (not including bedrooms) - comprising less than 4 per cent of the total public housing stock - are currently rented out to foreigners. The number of approved applications to rent out HDB flats dropped by 6.7 per cent to 11,216 in the third quarter of this year, from 12,024 in the previous quarter.
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.