Home Office in Singapore: A Simple Guide to HDB’s Home Office Scheme

A woman working from a home office in Singapore - talking on the phone while writing on a notebook

The idea of running your own home office in Singapore can be pretty attractive. 

For starters, you don’t have to wake up early and squeeze with the madding crowd during the morning rush hour. Plus, you don’t have to dress up and can work in whatever you’re comfortable in. And the best thing about running a home office from your flat? You can save on office rental. 

But before you jump into running your business from your HDB flat, be sure to get a license under HDB’s Home Office Scheme.

Essentially, the Home Office Scheme allows you to run a small-scale registered business from your HDB flat. Do take note that there are some guidelines and criteria that you’ll need to fulfil as well, before you can get a Home Office Scheme license. 

Renovating your HDB flat to make it more conducive for a home office? Read about all the HDB renovation guidelines and permits here.

Home Improvement

Renovating your HDB flat to make it more conducive for a home office? Read about all the HDB renovation guidelines and permits here.

 

What are the criteria and guidelines to meet under HDB’s Home Office Scheme? 

Before applying for a license under the Home Office Scheme to run your business in your flat, be sure that you meet the following eligibility criteria and guidelines. 

1) Conducting of Business

You’ll need to be at least 18 years old and either a flat owner, authorised occupier, or tenant of the flat. 

Since your flat is technically a residential place, it should not be used primarily for the business. Plus, you’ll need to ensure that you meet the following business activity and safety requirements: 

2) ACRA Registration

If your business is not exempted under the Business Registration Act, you’ll need to have it registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) before you can start any activity. 

Should you apply for the Home Office Scheme license before registering with ACRA, you’ll have to select your profile as “Individual” in the application. 

After registering with ACRA, you can then register it as a business under the Home Office Scheme license. 

3) Conditions of Flat use

Your flat should primarily remain as a place to live, and not solely used for business. Your business activities should also be confined within the flat. Additionally, your flat cannot be registered for a society. 

Want to have extra space? Find out here if you can buy the space outside your HDB flat.

Buying

Want to have extra space? Find out here if you can buy the space outside your HDB flat.

4) Business Activity

Do take note that the business you’re running in your flat under the Home Office Scheme should also  not cause any disturbance to your neighbours and the surrounding areas. 

You should also ensure that your business doesn’t invite heavy human traffic, be it client or customer, to your flat and its surrounding areas. 

In general, any business activity under the Home Office Scheme in Singapore must not cause one of the following: 

  • Generate noise, smoke, odour, chemical/liquid waste, or dust, which could become a nuisance to your neighbours
  • Be illegal, unlawful, or immoral (e.g. gambling or pornography-related activities)
  • Introduce or cause extraneous human or vehicular traffic to the surroundings or neighbourhood
  • Involve any form of solicitation of business that could cause annoyance or disturbance to the residents or public (e.g. distribution of brochures, door-to-door visits)
  • Sell/buy any physical goods in or around the flat
  • Display any signage, advertisements, posters, etc
  • Adversely affect the character, ambience, and environment of the residential estate

5) Safety Requirements

Since office items such as papers, files, and office equipment in a home office are more likely to cause a fire than those found in normal residential areas, it’s a must that you have a fire extinguisher and smoke detector installed in your flat. 

Under the requirements set by the Fire Safety and Shelter Department (FSSD), you’ll need to install:

  • A 2kg ABC Dry Chemical Powder fire extinguisher (available at DIY shops)
  • A single-station smoke detector (battery operated, no wiring needed; available at DIY shops)

You may also email SCDF_qp_consultant@scdf.gov.sg for any fire safety requirements. 

Is HDB fire insurance enough for your flat? Read this article to find out more.

Buying

Is HDB fire insurance enough for your flat? Read this article to find out more.

In addition to installing a fire extinguisher and smoke detector, you should also ensure that your business adheres to the following: 

  • All necessary safety precautions are taken, ensuring business activities do not pose any danger to human lives or damage any property
  • The structural load and consumption of electricity does not exceed the normal residential limit
  • Dangerous chemicals and/or hazardous substances are not stored and/or used
  • Regulations of other government authorities are complied with and relevant licences/ approvals are obtained before commencement of operations

6) Guidelines for operations

Another thing to note about running a business under the Home Office Scheme in Singapore is that you’re not allowed to put any commercial signage outside your flat. Other operations guidelines that you’ll need to meet include the business structure and number of non-resident employees. 

Business registration, structure, and signage

As mentioned previously, you’ll need to register your business with ACRA unless it’s exempted under the Business Registration Act. 

Your business has to be registered as one of the following business structures:

  • Sole-proprietorship 
  • Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership
  • Company (Private Limited)

Additionally, you’re not allowed to put up any business or advertising signage since you’re running a business in a residential area. 

Employees in the flat

Although there’s no limit in the number of people that you can employ for your business, you can only have up to 2 non-residents working in your flat. 

These 2 people can be:

  • Partners
  • Shareholders
  • Directors of the business
  • Employees

Property tax

As long as you or any other co-owner live in the flat, it’s subjected to the owner-occupied concessionary tax rate.

 

What are the types of businesses that I can run under the Home Office Scheme in Singapore? 

A person working in an accounting business holding a pencil and checking a document, with a calculator by the side

You can run an accounting business from your HDB flat under the Home Office Scheme

 

These are the businesses permissible under the Home Office Scheme:

  • Accountancy services
  • Architectural services
  • Consultancy services (e.g. business, engineering, IT/management, education etc.)
  • Design/advertising services
  • Transportation services
  • Estate agency
  • Insurance/financial planning services
  • Technology-based/knowledge-intensive business
  • Trading office

If you’re running a business that falls under one of the following categories, you can only run an administrative office from your flat. While you can use the flat address for the business registration with ACRA, you can’t have other activities taking place inside the flat. 

Let’s say you’re running a baking business. Under the Home Office Scheme, you can only do the admin work in your flat and not bake your cakes and cookies there. 

Plus, you’ll need to meet your clients and customers somewhere else other than your flat. 

Here are the businesses that you can only run an administration office from your flat: 

  • Beauty, hairdressing, or massage therapy services 
  • Business by building/renovation contractors
  • Car trading business
  • Card/palm reading or fortune telling in any form
  • Commercial school (e.g. music school, language school, tuition centre, etc)
  • Conducting of dress making/ embroidery lessons
  • Courier business
  • Food catering/restaurants
  • Funeral chapels or homes
  • Maid/employment agency
  • Mausoleums
  • Ophthalmic dispensary/pharmacy/medical/dental clinic or veterinary medicine
  • Repair of household appliances, electrical products, footwear, etc.
  • Sales/marketing that involves conducting seminars/talks for large numbers of customers
  • Shops and any form of retail activity, including pet shops
  • Manufacturing, preparation, or processing of products and/ or goods such as:
    • Food products
    • Beverages
    • Textiles
    • Apparel
    • Handbags
    • Footwear
    • Wood and/ or paper products
    • Pharmaceutical products
    • Soap
    • Food chemicals
    • Additives
    • Joss sticks
    • Camphor products
    • Glass
    • Plastic
    • Rubber products
    • Domestic appliances
    • Watches and clocks
    • Other related products

 

How do I apply for the Home Office Scheme license? 

You may either apply for the license on your own, or authorise someone else to do it for you. 

If you’re applying on your own

You can apply via the LicenceOne portal and pay an administrative fee of $20. During the application, you’ll also need the following: 

  • SingPass
  • Credit card (Visa or Mastercard) for payment

For your reference, be sure to print the approval letter under the “Correspondence” tab after the submission and payment. 

If a third party is applying 

You can also have a third party apply on your behalf via the LicenceOne portal. During the application, he’ll need the following: 

  • Your NRIC number
  • A Letter of Authorisation from you
  • SingPass
  • Credit card (Visa or MasterCard) for payment

Income Tax

Keep in mind that besides property tax, you’ll need to pay income tax for any income earned or received from your business. 

For more information on income tax, be sure to check the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website. 

What if there are changes to the business? 

You’ll first need to ensure that your business still meets all the Home Office Scheme requirements. Next, be sure to update the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) of these changes.

 

How can I renew the Home Office Scheme license? 

As the license is valid for 5 years, you’ll need to renew it in order to continue your business operations at home. HDB will send you a renewal reminder before your license expires. 

Similar to the application, you’ll need to log in to the LicenceOne portal and have the following: 

  • SingPass
  • Credit card (Visa or MasterCard) for payment

Don’t forget to print out the approval letter under the “Correspondence” tab for your reference.

 

How do I terminate the Home Office Scheme license? 

If you decide not to use your flat as a home office anymore, you can terminate your Home Office Scheme license through one of the following methods: 

Once your license is terminated, you’ll have to stop using your flat as a home office.

 

Thinking of getting a Soho to run a Home Office? Read here to find out how you can run a Home Office from your Soho.

Buying

Thinking of getting a Soho to run a Home Office? Read here to find out how you can run a Home Office from your Soho.

Click HERE to get more interesting guides like this, or check out PropertyGuru.

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Click HERE to get more interesting guides like this, or check out PropertyGuru.

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