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Individual charged with abetment of housing migrant workers in unacceptable accommodation, illegal employment of migrant worker, and unauthorised development of private residential premises

  Published: 05 October 2021

The Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) has charged Lau Liang Thye (“Lau”), a 42-year-old Singaporean man, with 11 counts for abetting employers to house migrant workers in unacceptable accommodation and one count for illegally employing a migrant worker without a valid work pass, offences punishable under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (Cap. 91A, 2009 Rev Ed) (“EFMA”).

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (“URA”) has also charged Lau with three counts of unauthorised development of private residential units. This is for converting private residential units into unauthorised dormitory accommodation. In addition, URA has charged Tay Kim Kiat (“Tay”), a 58-year-old Singaporean man, with three counts of unauthorised development of private residential units. This is for converting a private residential unit to provide unauthorised dormitory accommodation and for permitting Lau to provide dormitory accommodation at another two units. These offences are punishable under the Planning Act (Cap. 232, 1998 Rev Ed).

Case details

On 3 December 2018, MOM and URA conducted a joint inspection at a pair of three-storey shophouses located at 32 and 34 Lorong 23 Geylang (“the two premises”). During the inspection, MOM and URA discovered a total of 39 occupants living at the two premises which had been partitioned. Investigations revealed that Lau rented the second and third floors of the two premises from Tay and sublet it to other tenants including 22 migrant workers. In addition, Lau had allegedly sublet partitioned rooms on the rooftop of the two premises without Tay’s knowledge. Given the 39 tenants found residing at the two premises, this exceeded URA’s occupancy cap rules of no more than six unrelated occupants at each of the private residential premises. Following the joint inspection conducted at the two premises, the employers of the migrant workers were ordered to relocate all affected workers to proper and approved accommodation within two weeks.

Lau allegedly employed one of his tenants, Zhu Guangpeng (“Zhu”), a 46-year-old Chinese national, as a housekeeper and rent collector in exchange for a reduction in his rent, when Zhu did not have a valid work pass to do so.

Advisory by MOM and URA

Under URA’s regulations, private residential properties are currently subject to an occupancy cap of six unrelated persons. All occupants must also fulfil a minimum stay duration of three consecutive months. Property owners should exercise due diligence to ensure that their properties are not used by their tenants for unauthorised purposes.

Private homeowners who have rented out their residential properties should verify the names of work pass holders registered to be residing at their addresses using the Foreign Worker Tenant Enquiry Service. Doing so ensures that their properties are rented out responsibly and not misused. Homeowners should physically check their premises periodically for fire hazards and overcrowding.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012 (“EFMR”), employers are required to ensure that their migrant workers reside in acceptable accommodation that complies with the various statutory requirements. Employers who fail to do so would have committed an offence under the EFMA. If convicted, employers can be fined up to $10,000, or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both, for each charge.

Migrant workers who have accommodation issues can report the matter to MOM at 6438 5122 or call the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) helpline at 6536 2692.

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