When it comes to the rental market in Singapore, the winners are often the more knowledgeable ones. Individuals who are aware of the property rules will have higher financial gains from their properties while avoiding any breaking of the law. In contrast, the new tenants or the inexperienced landlords face higher risks of losing money, getting evicted, or landing up in jail. Landlords should also obtain properties from a reputable property developer.
In order to ensure that you avoid any issues with properties, here are some tips and useful information for you to be well aware of the latest rules governing the rental market here.
A very common complaint tenants have is of their landlords checking their rooms without the consent of the tenants, or while they are away. This can be frustrating for both parties as it can lead to mistrust and tension which is always unwanted. In Singapore, the landlord does have legal rights to access any part of his property by default.
As tenants, you will have to ensure that your leasing contract covers such a situation and is clearly-worded to provide you enough privacy. This way, your landlord will face consequences with the law if the contract prevents him or her from breaking into the lessee’s room unjustly.
Some of the provision that can be incorporated into the contract to protect your rights as a tenant is as follows:
- The owner will have to obtain a written permit if he or she wishes to enter the tenant’s room.
- The landlord will be required to inform the tenant in advance with an ample period of notice if he wishes to enter the room.
- Penalties should be set in the event where the owner goes against the provisions. An example of such penalties could be immediate scrapping of the rental contract or after a period of notice. It’s also important to clearly define in the agreement for a refund of your security deposit in case a violation occurs.
- It is also crucial to include limitations to the clause. Some common exceptions can include emergencies or significant repairs that could damage the property if delayed, or due to police search warrants.
Before you sign any papers to commit to renting a room, be sure to have some form of proof that whoever you are forming the transaction with is the authorized owner of the property or someone who has been authorized by the owner. Master tenants do not have the authority to sublet rooms unless they have received explicit permission from the owner.
In the case that the master tenant has obtained explicit permission to sublet their rooms, make sure that the official rental contract has your name in it and the actual landlord has acknowledged it. Failure to do so might result in you being evicted and there is also a possibility of you losing your security deposit.
To prevent such a case from happening, always check who you’re working with. You can confirm this by having the “owner” log into his or her HDB account for public housing, or have him or her access their SLA MyProperty portal to verify their owned properties.
It is your due diligence to do your homework, especially when choosing a rental room as it can put you in danger of leaving you on the roads or panicking as you rush to find a new place to stay. In that scenario, you can only pray hard that at least the security deposit will be returned to you.
Overcrowding is another major issue that tenants might face. In 2018, authorities actually raided an HDB flat to find 15 tenants living in a space of three bedrooms. Both private residential properties, as well as HDB flats, come with strict regulations with the maximum count of occupants. There are also fixed partitioning regulations for apartments so be aware of red flags if the living space has any room dividers.
Then, how many occupants are too many? The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has announced that the maximum number of tenants that are permitted to stay in private housing has been reduced to six unrelated individuals. This rule commenced in May 2017, and the rental contracts that were signed before this date will be allowed to continue till May 2019.
To add on, domestic helpers and caregivers are considered to belong to a single-family. To illustrate this more clearly, a family of five hires a domestic helper or caregiver will be exempted from the private housing occupancy limit. In contrast, a four-member family that rents a room in a private condo can only have two more tenants.
The Housing Board has also announced that the headcount of unrelated tenants in HDB flats with four or more rooms cannot exceed six people, while the cap for flats with rooms fewer than three remains the same at four tenants for the entire HDB flat.
Yes, there are regulations for the period of the rental. Since June 2017, the minimum rental duration for private housing is three consecutive months, with no maximum rental period. For HDB flats, there is a minimum rental period of six months and a maximum rental period of one and a half years (non-Singaporeans and non-Malaysians) to three years (Singaporeans or Malaysians). If a landlord wishes to renew this tenancy after the maximum rental period, he or she will need to obtain a permit from HDB.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of Singapore’s property rental rules, make sure you be clear with your tenant or landlord as the last thing we want is for us to get into trouble with the law or lose a roof over our heads.
By: Samantha Acuna
Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and Yahoo Small Business.