SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) – The two shophouse units at Geylang Lorong 4 damaged in a fire on Sunday were overcrowded, a Manpower Ministry spokesman told The New Paper on Tuesday (Sept 17).

The authorities are also investigating if they had been illegally used as dormitories.

In a joint reply to queries from The New Paper on Tuesday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the third-storey units at 45B and 47B Lorong 4 Geylang are approved for residential use.

Each can only accommodate six unrelated people, but 14 work permit holders stayed in the units, said the spokesman from MOM and URA.

The statement said they are investigating the case for offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) and Planning Act.

It added: “Based on our preliminary findings, the employers have breached EFMA by housing their work permit holders in overcrowded conditions.”

The URA is also looking into whether the properties were converted into dormitory accommodation without proper authorisation.

Under the EFMA, employers are required to ensure safe and proper accommodation for their foreign workers.

Those who fail to do so can be fined up to $10,000, or jailed for up to one year, or both, for each foreign worker housed in unsafe or overcrowded conditions.

Errant employers will also be barred from applying for new work pass or renewing existing work pass.

Under the Planning Act, private residential properties are subject to an occupancy cap of six unrelated people.

Property owners should exercise due diligence to check that their premises are not put to unauthorised uses, such as dormitory accommodation, the spokesman said.