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Be Careful if You’re Selling Stuff or Running a Business in Any of These 3 Places in Singapore

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Joanne Poh

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Singaporeans have another reason to hate SMRT. They now say you’ll be slapped with a fine for “doing business” at MRT stations, even if said business just means meeting up with that guy you sold your old crap to on Carousell.

Budding entrepreneurs need to take note of the fact that despite Singapore’s reputation for being business-friendly, as a small fry who’s trying to make a bit of cash from home, you don’t get a free pass to do whatever you want. Here are three places where you might get yourself fined for unleashing your entrepreneurial spirit.

 

At MRT stations

Signs have started popping up at MRT stations all over Singapore, warning people that they will be fined if they attempt to transfer any goods between the paid and unpaid area. And as if giving a nod to our rather farcical reputation as a “fine city”, the signs warn that you can be fined up to $2,000. Ouch.

According to a recent news report, SMRT noticed increased numbers of people “loitering” on the premises for the purposes of conducting transactions at the MRT stations. So their knee-jerk response was to ban it by threatening to impose fines. Not really surprised there.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t meet your Carousell sellers and buyers at the MRT station, though. You can continue doing so, but in order to complete the transaction the person on the train will have to tap out, or the person outside will have to tap in. That means a bit of money will be wasted, but Carousell sellers will probably make up for that by charging a little extra for their wares.

While the purported objective of ensuring the flow of commuters remains smooth seems to make sense in theory, in practice it just means that people are going to tap out, complete their transactions and then tap back in, and in doing so actually add to human traffic.

 

On the streets

As a kid, did you ever look at those guys selling ice cream sandwiches on Orchard Road and swear that’s what you’d do when you grew up? Or, more pessimistically, have you ever fretted that someday when you’re old, you’ll end up selling tissue on the streets?

Well, don’t think you can just hit the streets and start pestering people to buy your products. In order to sell things in public places, and yes, that includes tissue, you need a licence under the Street Hawking Scheme. The licence costs $120 and will confine you to a certain spot. That means you can’t walk around or sell in multiple areas. Those uncles and aunties walking around asking people at hawker centre tables to buy tissue are actually breaking the law.

So on Valentines’ Day, when you see those people clutching baskets of roses trying to guilt-trip guys into buying last-minute flowers for their dates, know that they’re probably breaking the law too.

It’s also worth noting that licences are doled out on a case-by-case basis, and can be rejected for no reason. If you’re young, able bodied and are just thinking of finding an easy way to offload those Pokemon cards, you’re better off looking for a flea market.

 

In your HDB flat

Most people in Singapore live in HDB flats. That means that if you’re going to conduct a home-based business, you’re going to have to abide by the rules imposed by HDB. So what has Big Brother got in store for you?

Well, you’re in luck, budding entrepreneurs, because under the Home Based Small Scale Business Scheme, you do NOT need to get HDB’s approval before you start running your business from home. So whether you’re conducting lessons for your tuition students from the comfort of home or using your living room as storage space for your blogshop’s products, rest assured that your home won’t be unceremoniously confiscated, unlike those of the people who dared to rent out rooms in their flat on Airbnb.

Still, you’ll have to make sure you don’t flout any of HDB’s rules governing the running of a business in your flat, or at least make sure your neighbours don’t complain, or you could find your little enterprise shut down.

That means not doing anything that could cause your neighbours to complain about you. Take care not to make too much noise, let excessive smells waft over to their units, leave trash in the corridor or make it obvious that you’ve got an entire childcare centre-worth of tuition kids trooping in each day.

Elsewhere on MoneySmart, we explored some things you can and cannot do when running an HDB-based business.

So good luck, we hope you make piles of cash with your business without get fined or shut down by the authorities.

Do you know anyone who conducts his business in any of the above places? Share your stories in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.