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What’s allowed in your HDB riser, corridor and common areas?

If you’ve ever done HDB viewings, you would’ve likely encountered flats where the homeowners made the HDB corridor and common area their own. 

Their interior decor spills out from their house onto the exterior of their flat, where they personalise it with all sorts of things from photo frames, plant racks or hanging planters, other quaint decor items or even a weightlifting area (I guess you don’t need to go to the community centre gym anymore).

Others treat it as extra space to store their gardening and cleaning supplies, umbrellas and other bits and bobs they don’t want in their house.

Here’s the thing: All that extra space? It doesn’t belong to you. 

Riling up the neighbours 

It’s not uncommon. Many complaints have been lodged over the years about inconsiderate neighbours using the HDB corridor as personal storage. 

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One notable occurrence was this Simei resident who didn’t want to pay for storage space, so she lined the corridor with seven fridges.  

Another homeowner redefined “urban jungle” when she had up to 80 potted plants overflowing outside her flat, resulting in the local town council ordering the removal of most of the plants.

While it might not bother some people, cluttering the area outside your HDB will affect the elderly or those who rely on a wheelchair, who need the extra space to navigate the already cramped corridors. 

So let us break down what’s allowed and what’s not for your HDB riser, corridor and common areas.

HDB riser

What’s an HDB riser? The riser is the compartment usually found right beside your main entrance door, which houses the breaching inlet, fire alarm panel and fire hose reel. 

Most of us use it as a convenient storage area for odds and ends, such as brooms or umbrellas. Others use it as a personal mailbox for delivery personnel to leave parcels in if no one’s home to receive it or for friends to drop off items. 

I’ve personally used mine to store leftover tiles and painting supplies from my renovation. 

It’s also been used for more nefarious purposes, such as the storage of dead bodies and weapons. 

However, filling your riser up with items may obstruct access in the case of a fire emergency. Imagine the fire department playing reverse Tetris while a fire rages on nearby. 

Various town councils have put up notices to inform residents not to use their risers as personal storage. 

HDB riser town council
HDB riser town council

The Singapore Civil Defence Force also states that access to fire safety and fire fighting provisions are not to be impeded at all times, which means that anything obstructing the dry riser compartment must be cleared out.

HDB riser
HDB riser

HDB corridor

Ah yes, the quintessential HDB corridor – a permanent fixture that we HDB dwellers take for granted in our urban landscape. 

We traverse it every day but never stop to take note of the surroundings until something inconveniences us.  

People use their corridors for all sorts of activities, including turning it into a makeshift outdoor cafe of sorts.

hdb corridor
hdb corridor

According to the SCDF, storing combustible materials along the HDB common corridor isn’t permitted. Such items include cardboard boxes and newspapers. 

Suppose you want your clothes to bask in the glaring afternoon sun. In that case, you may do so, as long as there’s a width of 1.2 metres so that the corridor remains easily accessible in medical emergencies where stretchers or wheelchairs are required. 

The same goes for shoe racks. None of those huge Ikea storage cabinets in the corridor, thanks. 

HDB staircases and landings

Some HDB blocks have larger landings and staircase areas, especially older blocks. But this doesn’t mean you have more storage space for your bicycles, or so you can cultivate a green thumb. 

My neighbour even has a full dining set (complete with lazy susan) right outside the lift – maybe they enjoy the fresh air? 

Keeping anything at those places is strictly off-limits, as it is usually where the landing valves and hose reels are located. 

Evacuation from a fire also means taking the staircase as an emergency route. Any obstruction could mean the difference between life or death. 

HDB staircases and landings
HDB staircases and landings

What if I’m on a super high-rise building?

HDBs with more than 40 storeys are classified as super high-rise residential buildings (here’s looking at you, Pinnacle@Duxton). 

If a fire breaks out on the higher floors, the first floor may take too long to get to. That’s where a refuge floor comes in. 

Refuge floors are designated floors made of fire-resistant materials that serve as a safe holding area. It can be easily identified by a sign “Fire Emergency Holding Area” displayed on both the wall inside and outside the staircase. 

Following the Fire Code*, there’s one refuge floor for every 20 floors.

*The Fire Code was created in 1974 after the Robinsons Department Store fire that year, which killed nine people.

SCDF fire-fighters can also use these special floors to carry out search, rescue and fire-fighting operations, which are well-ventilated for efficient smoke dispersal. 

At least 50% of the gross floor area must be able to hold occupants temporarily; it can be used as an exercise area as long as the equipment is not flammable. 

I still want to store stuff in front of my unit

Well, good news, you can! With HDB’s Sale of Recess Area Scheme, you’re allowed to buy the space in front of your flat. 

Here are the conditions:

  • The space in front of your unit meets technical requirements relating to design, access, fire safety and ventilation

  • There are no service ducts, such as gas pipes, water meters and electrical ducts in the space

You’re not allowed to buy the space if:

  • Your flat is built after 1996 

  • Your flat is under a Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) project

  • Your flat is next to a corner unit

  • Your flat is located next to the opening that leads to the canopy of the protruding access balcony

  • Your flat is located in a point block where it’s the only unit on the floor which has the recess area

  • The space doesn’t comply with the Fire Safety Code

  • The space contains electrical risers

So… how much is it? 

Homeowners can purchase the recess area using CPF or straight-up cash. Here are the costs:

  • Purchase price (the S$ per sqm is reviewed every three months)

  • Stamp and registration fees*

  • Conveyancing fees*

  • Survey fees*

*Different fees will apply depending on who you appoint to act for your purchase (HDB or a private solicitor). If your current housing mortgage is with a bank, you need to engage your own solicitor. 

To give you an example, if you appoint HDB to help you purchase the recess area outside your unit, you’ll incur the following costs: 

Purchase price

S$6,800

Stamp & registration fee

S$221.20

Conveyancing fee

S$115.60

Survey fee

S$160.50

Total

S$7,297.30

Do note that this doesn’t account for the relocation of service ducts and fittings/fixtures, as well as renovation works. You’ll have to pay for these costs out of pocket. 

To apply, you can go to MyHDBPage and log in with your NRIC or SingPass. Once you’ve logged in, follow these steps:

  1. Click on “Add e-Services to Favourites”

  2. Followed by “Residential” and “Living in an HDB Flat”

  3. Look for “Application to Purchase Recess Area”

You can also call the HDB Branch Service Line at 1800-225-5432 (toll-free) for assistance.

After submitting your application, HDB will send out a surveyor to perform a site inspection and technical assessment to determine whether your unit’s recess is eligible for purchase. 

If you need to relocate the services, fittings or fixtures, you’ll need to do so before the completion date. 

Once your purchase goes through, you can get approval by HDB for renovation works to commence via an HDB-registered contractor. 


Interested in buying the area in front of your unit? Let us know in the comments section below.

If you found this article helpful, 99.co recommends 9 storage space solutions for Singaporean homes and Getting rid of clutter at home.

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