THEY can't pay off their home loans and other debts. So they sell their HDB flats but end up without a roof over their heads.

Squat at the void deck or pitch tents on the beach while hoping to get a rental flat from HDB.

In recent years, The New Paper has reported on the plight of such families in the Malay-Muslim community. Members of Parliament (MPs) have also spoken about the issue.

Will the implementation of the seven-day cooling-off period for HDB flat sellers from Nov 1 help such people make better-informed and more prudent financial decisions?

The cooling-off period has to be observed after the sellers complete an enhanced resale checklist that includes working out the estimated sales proceeds from their flat, a financial plan for the purchase of their next flat and where they plan to live next.

The sellers can grant an option-to-purchase (OTP) to buyers - the contract used in resale transactions - only after the seven days.

Several Malay-Muslim MPs and community leaders told The New Paper that the new measures will help some people in the community.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, MP for Hong Kah GRC, said: "The policy doesn't specifically target the Malay-Muslim community but I suppose a number would benefit from it.

"The changes will be welcome for those who are not so well informed, so that they won't rush to liquidate their flat."

Mr Abdul Halim Kader, 58, a veteran Malay community leader and president of voluntary welfare organisation Taman Bacaan, agreed that the measures will help some in the Malay community.

He said that the measures can help reduce the number of people who become homeless after rushing to sell their flats because they were influenced by unscrupulous property agents or family members who want a cut of the money.

"It will also help prevent friction among family members because of the housing situation," Mr Abdul Halim added.

Madam Halimah Yacob, MP for Jurong GRC, said the measures are not targeted at anyone community.

She had previously spoken of some Malay-Muslims who had difficulty paying their housing arrears due to poor financial planning.

She said: "It may seem there are more (homeless) cases from this community.

"But I don't think the measure is targeted at a particular race. It would benefit all lower-income households who may over-extend themselves."

She said the enhanced checklist and extra time would allow sellers to understand the implications of their actions and seek advice from others.

Policy's positive impact Mr Zainudin Nordin, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, reckons that it's too early to tell the impact of the policy on homeless cases.

But he thinks the checklists can have a positive impact if properly implemented.

"The bottom line is we want buyers and sellers to be properly guided in one of the most important investment decisions in their lives," he added.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said the measures are targeted at those who are frivolous in their spending, "regardless of whether they are from this community or not".

He said: "This allows them to do their financial calculations, so thereafter they can't come back crying later on after selling their house and demanding a rental flat.

"They have to think about where they are going to live - is it with the in-laws or are they going to rent a room?"

But the cooling-off period and enhanced checklist have their limitations.

Mr Zaqy pointed out: "Those in desperate need of funds may sell their flat and bulldoze their way through the checklist no matter what."

HDB said last week that the additional disclosures it is requiring flat sellers to put in the checklist are meant to help them make responsible decisions, not block the sale of flats.

Madam Halimah suggested: "The cooling-off period alone isn't sufficient. There should be a mechanism where people can get financial advice during this period."