Renting a Property in Singapore
Renting a property in Singapore, especially when you are newly arrived, can be confusing and daunting. Here’s what you as a tenant need to know in order to secure your dream home.
Know Your Housing Options
Explore the various housing options available to decide on the type of housing that you would like to live in. There are 3 main types of residential housing – apartments & condominiums, landed houses, and HDB flats.
Private housing are generally classified into “districts“. Districts 9, 10, 11 and 21 are prime residential areas that are very popular with expatriates and upper middle class Singaporeans.
Other popular locations are districts 15 and 16 which are near the coastline and hence offer excellent sea views (example, East Coast Park) or river/bay views (example, Tanjong Rhu). Generally, you will only get to enjoy the sea view if you reside in units that are at least 15 stories high.
Public housing are generally classified into “towns“. For example: Yishun, Choa Chu Kang, Punggol, Bedok, etc. Towns in the central region tend to be more popular, including Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Toa Payoh. Other popular areas include Marine Parade (located near the East Coast). With recent upgrades to their amenities, older estates are also seeing increased demand from flat owners as well as tenants (this may interest you as a property owner as you could be renting out your property in the future).
Know Your Requirements
To decide on a suitable housing, you will need to consider the following:
Budget – Bear in mind that not all housing is fully furnished, and costs quoted do not take into account electricity, telephone, internet and gas charges.
Lease duration – Most lease terms are for one year or more; though shorter leases are negotiable on a case-by-case basis.
Accommodation needs – How many bedrooms do you need? Do you require a large kitchen for cooking, or a playroom for your little tots?
Furnishing needs – Do you need a fully furnished or partially furnished home? If you intend to ship over your furniture from your existing home, you may prefer an unfurnished one instead.
Location – Does the location you have in mind meet your needs for transport convenience, proximity to your office/school, leisure facilities, shopping/banking amenities?
Appoint an Agent
If your budget allows, appoint an agent to service you. Look for one who is familiar with the location and type of housing that you have in mind. Make sure the agent is registered with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA). Be specific when you discuss your requirements with your agent. This will allow him to advise and service you in a professional manner. To understand more on his duties to you, read: Duties of a Property Agent.
Your agent will arrange for you to view available homes that match your criteria. Bring along a small notebook to scribble down both positive and negative points about the home. This will help you make an informed comparison among the homes you have visited. Do be punctual for your viewing appointments.
Besides the property itself, pay attention to surrounding areas. If you can, have a quick walk around. Take note of the ambience, cleanliness and noise levels. You can always change the property interior but there’s no way you can change the surroundings!
You can highlight any missing or non-working fixtures for your agent’s or Landlord’s attention, but do refrain from making any negative/offensive comments. After all, you may eventually decide to rent the property; so it is wise to exercise tact with the Landlord.
In all circumstances, do not feel pressured into renting a place until you are comfortable with it, as you are under no obligation to your agent. Do not sign any document unless you fully understand the contents and implications, and can meet all the necessary requirements.
Making Your Offer
When you find a suitable property, discuss with your agent on making an offer. He will be able to give you his view on the prevailing market prices with regards to the property type, location and provided furnishings.
Once you have decided to rent the property, you will usually sign a legal document known as a tenancy (rental) agreement. Ensure that the tenancy agreement is signed directly between yourself (the Tenant) and the Landlord/Owner.
To verify the property’s ownership, you can request the Landlord/Owner to produce a conservancy bill (for HDB flat owners) or a property tax statement (for private property owners). Double check that the person you are dealing with is the rightful Landlord/Owner.
The tenancy agreement will set out the obligations between both parties for a fixed term agreed upon. This includes requiring the Landlord/Owner to make sure all utilities are properly installed and in working condition, whilst you (the tenant) will be responsible for ensuring that the property is maintained in good order.
Ensure that the inventory list (items within the property that would be entitled for the Tenant’s use) within the tenancy agreement is satisfactorily met and inspected (you may like to take pictures for evidence) before signing the agreement. Clarify with your Landlord whether use of common household facilities like the kitchen, TV, etc. is allowed.
Of natural persons, only those of age 18 and above can sign the tenancy agreement. For those under 18 years of age, a guardian or guarantor/sponsor would need to sign the tenancy agreement together with the occupier.
Keep a copy of the tenancy agreement for your own records. Obtain receipts for all monies paid, for example security deposit, monthly rentals, etc.
It is common practice for the Tenant to pay a security deposit equivalent to one or two months’ rental, together with the first month’s of rental upfront. Thereafter, payment is usually done on a monthly basis. The security deposit is refundable at the end of the contract period, provided there is no damage to the property. Any damages or breakages caused by you (the Tenant) will be deducted from the security deposit when it is released. In some cases, the security deposit may also not be refunded if you (the Tenant) do not give sufficient notice to the Landlord about moving out before expiry of the contract.
For avoidance of possible misunderstandings or mishandling, ensure that the rental fees are handed directly to the Landlord/Owner. It is best that you make payment via cheques payable to the Landlord/Owner’s name. Ensure that you receive a receipt from the Landlord showing the full amount of rental paid for the accommodation.
If you own and keep valuable personal items in your rented home, consider taking up personal housing insurance. Your agent will be able to help you with this.
A set of commission guidelines, published by the Institute of Estate Agents (IEA), is available online at www.iea.org.sg. Remember that while a good agent is obliged to provide good service, making him your friend will ensure that you have someone to call should the need ever arise.