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Running a Home Business? Make Sure You Read This First

Setting up shop in your HDB flat is possible, provided if you stick to the regulations.

Being cooped up at home has probably made you more productive in some way. For one, you might’ve finally hunkered down to master a new skill, like baking or embroidery. And that makes you wonder if it’s possible to turn it into a side hustle to earn some extra pocket money.

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Truthfully, you can. And you can even do it from the comfort of your own home (no more office space)! But seeing as your HDB flat is a place of residence, there things that you can and cannot do. To get started on your own home business, take note of the below!

1. How to get a license

Depending on your nature of business, you might require a license to operate.

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Home Office SchemeHome-Based Small Scale Business Scheme
  • Small-scale formal businesses, requires license
  • Informal home-based business activities, does not require license

What’s the difference between formal and informal businesses?

Simply put, the Home Office Scheme covers:

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

While the Home-Based Small Scale Business Scheme covers:

  • Small-scale bakeries
  • Hairdressing, beauty, manicure and/or pedicure services*
  • Private tuition services (for not more than 3 students at a time)
  • Sewing services
  • Photography, writing, art services (work that can be done on a contract basis)

*Massage services are not allowed in HDB flats.

You can apply for a license via GoBusiness. It costs $20 and is valid for five years. You will need to prepare your:

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

2. Guidelines for Home Office and Home-Based Small Scale Business Schemes

Each has their own set of guidelines you will need to adhere to.

Home Office SchemeHome-Based Small Scale Business Scheme
Your flat must remain primarily as a place of residence, with any business use being the secondary purpose and confined within the flatYour flat is to remain for residential use, and you cannot register it as a business address
Must be run by persons aged 18 and above. Must be the flat owner, tenant or authorised occupier. No business or advertising signage is allowedNo physical or paid advertising for the business, e.g. display of business signboard outside the flat, or advertising in newspapers or online platforms
Must register business with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), unless exempted under the Business Registration ActMust comply with rules and regulations of relevant authorities, such as the Singapore Food Agency for food hygiene

While there is no limit to the number of employees in the business, only two non-residents are allowed to work in your flat, for formal and informal businesses alike.

Reason being that your HDB flat is still, first and foremost, for residential use. Businesses carried out cannot cause a nuisance to neighbours. That means no excessive noise, smoke, odour, dust, litter or high human/vehicle traffic. Of course, it shouldn’t be illegal!

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It should also abide by safety requirements set by the Fire Safety and Shelter Department (FSSD). For instance, you must install:

COVID-19 advisory for home businesses

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From 19 June 2020, all businesses were allowed to resume operations. However, home-based businesses that involve customers/employees entering the flat for a prolonged period should deploy SafeEntry to facilitate contact tracing.

As working from home becomes the new norm, it’s also important to build a conducive space. That’s why we’ve compiled home office ideas to inspire you to make better, and safer improvements!

*Information provided is accurate at the time of writing.

This article was adapted from MyNiceHome, HDB’s official website for all things related to home buying and renovation in Singapore. Check out the original article here.

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