3 weeks after moving in, family learns Potong Pasir flat’s previous owner died & decomposed in unit

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A family that moved into a resale Housing & Development Board (HDB) flat in Potong Pasir was blissfully ignorant about their apartment’s morbid history — until three weeks after moving in.

The home buyer, surnamed Chen, 31, moved into the unit in Block 139 Potong Pasir Avenue 3 with her two sons, father-in-law, and her younger brother in August 2022 — slightly more than two years after the skeletonised remains of the unit’s previous owner was found inside by chance, Shin Min Daily News reported.

It was believed that the homeowner, a man in his early 60s, had been dead and undiscovered for some nine years before National Environment Agency (NEA) officers carrying out dengue checks executed a forced entry onto the premises.

They were repeatedly unable to reach the occupant of the flat.

The remains of the occupant, which had turned into a skeleton, was only discovered on July 2, 2020.

The kitchen windows were open at that time, and there was reportedly no smell emanating from the scene.

All the calendars in the flat were showing June 2011 when the body was found, indicating that the deceased man had been dead and undiscovered in the flat for nine years.

New homeowner finds out

Chen was unaware of the flat’s history when she bought it, and remained ignorant about it until three weeks into her stay.

She said she was not informed about the flat’s history during the transaction process.

And this was after she paid for the flat and spent tens of thousands of dollars on renovations.

According to transaction records online, a four-room flat in the block was sold for S$670,000 in August 2022, which tallies with the amount reported by Shin Min.

Needed a flat urgently

Shin Min also reported that Chen had sold her other flat before purchasing one at that time, which added to the sense of urgency to quickly secure another unit.

When she chanced upon the Potong Pasir flat on the market after it was put up for sale by the deceased man’s family, it was ideal given that Chen needed to move in as soon as in two to three months’ time.

There were two units available in total in Potong Pasir at that time.

As this unit is closer to the school that Chen’s son attends, she inked the deal to purchase the unit in March 2022 and started renovations.

Chen said she never met the unit’s seller.

Real estate agents representing the buyer and seller were tasked with liaising with each other and overseeing the transaction, it was reported.

Moreover, at that time when Chen viewed the unit, it was stripped bare.

The floors and walls, including the toilet, were all subsequently renovated, Chen said.

The squatting toilet was converted into a regular seated toilet.

Contractor informed her

Three weeks after moving into the unit, Chen discovered that the ceiling in the kitchen was leaking.

A contractor was hired to assess the situation, and Chen was told the problem had persisted for more than 10 years.

Given the nature of the leak, and the inability to simply paint over it as part of the fix, the contractor told Chen that she needed to inform the relevant authorities about the issue.

That was when the contractor informed Chen about the unit’s history as part of casual conversation.

Not perturbed

The home owner told Shin Min that the priority at the moment was to stop the ceiling from leaking, and that she was unperturbed by the fact that a human body was found in the unit previously.

She was of the opinion that there was nothing she could do about the knowledge that a person had died in her home previously, it was reported.

There was also nothing unusual about the unit, apart from the leaking ceiling, Chen said.

The makeshift solution was to not turn the lights off at night, so as to allow the other members of the family to see the wet puddle on the floor.

However, Chen said she hopes real estate agents can be more upfront about a house’s past by disclosing pertinent information to prospective buyers beforehand.

Asking property agents the right questions

A real estate agent interviewed by Shin Min said prospective buyers ought to ask the right questions to get the necessary answers.

Two questions to ask a property agent upfront are if anyone had died in the house put up for sale, as well as if the previous owner had borrowed money from unlicensed moneylenders.

Property agents are obliged to be truthful when asked such point-blank questions, it was reported, as transactions can end up in jeopardy if it was discovered that there was an element of non-disclosure on the part of the real estate agent.

Top photos via Shin Min Daily News & Google Maps