Rental experience and tips to share with tenants

Originally published at: Rental experience and tips to share with tenants – Buy Sell Rent Singapore Properties |

Just to share my experience and some tips to benefit the rest. I am a singaporean and my wife is a foreigner. We rented a common room and below are the details.

Staying with landlord
Common Room with bed and wardrobe
Internet available
Air con available
Light cooking allowed
Bills included

Understanding why is the landlord renting out the room
Basically I can classify them into 2 types.
Type 1.Landlord who are desperate for money (e.g., to pay debt, to spend on unnecessary things). They are the ones who live beyond their means. To put it simply, they spend on things that they cannot afford. Don’t be surprise if your security deposit is gone as soon as they gets it.
Type 2.Landlord who are not desperate for money but just wants to earn some extra cash for retirement/savings/spending. They are the ones who lives thrifty and spend on what they can afford.
Think again. Who would rent out their room if they don’t need the money?

Working Professionals – This is a hint to you that they do not want the tenant to spend a lot of time at home. Sad to say that there are landlords who just want to take your money but does not want the tenant to stay at home.
Light cooking – This usually means that you can cook instant noodles or water only.
Laundry – This does not necessarily mean that usage of washing machine is included. It is usually not stated as it is commonly perceived that rental comes with it.

Do not believe everything that is stated in the advertisements.

Ask how many times can you cook in a week.
Check what exactly does the landlord allow you to cook. (e.g., if instant noodle is allowed, how about spaghetti? anything that is cook with water only? anything that is cook without oil only? Are eggs or pancakes allowed?)
Use your own utensils, cookware, dish washing liquid and sponge.

Ask how many times can you use the washing machine in a week.
Use your own laundry bag, laundry detergent, softener and hanger.

Site Survey
This is the time you can have a chat with the landlord and view the room. It is crucial to find out the information you need (e.g., Why are they renting out the room? Do they have a pet? Are there any smokers staying in the house? Will anyone walk around the house in underwear?) before making the decision to rent the room. The true characteristic and lifestyle of the landlord may not reveal at this point.

Tenancy Agreement
Anything that is not stated in the tenancy agreement may not be fulfilled by the landlord (e.g., verbal/empty promises).

Example of verbal/empty promises:
1.Issue receipt if rental is paid by cash
2.provide a bedframe
3.Usage of microwave and oven
4.smoke further away at the door or window
5.bathroom will be used by you only as
5a.they do not intend to rent out the other common room
5b.they will be using their own bathroom

Our Experience:
We signed the tenancy agreement with none of the verbal promises stated. And indeed none of them were fulfilled. This is a good example of a over-promised and under delivered service/product.

Do not be enticed by the verbal/empty promises. Please request the agent to state the items that is important to you in the tenancy agreement so that you can protect your interest as well. The landlord will sign the TA if he/she is able to commit. After you signed the tenancy agreement. Take photo of the room, furniture, toilet and facilities just in case if you do not want to be accused of any damage when you want to leave the place later on.

Mode of Rental Payment
2.Cash with receipt issued
3.Bank transfer to the landlord’s bank account

Our Experience:
The security deposit and 1st month’s rental is paid by cheque. Later on the landlord request to change the mode of payment to cash. We paid by cash for a few months but the landlord did not issue a receipt despite the previous verbal agreement and repeated reminders. Therefore We requested to change the mode of payment to bank transfer to keep track and have the proof of rental payment. The landlord provided the bank account number and we paid the rental via bank transfer. We paid the rental payment to the same bank account on the next month but the landlord told us that the account number does not belong to him/her. I called up the bank to find out that there is no way that we can cancel the transaction to get the money back unless the payee return it to us. The landlord had to called the payee so that him/her can transfer the money back to us. Then we paid by cash without receipt being issued again. We downloaded the tenancy receipt templates from the internet, print it out and pass to the landlord to sign. The landlord signed it reluctantly and in exasperation. On the subsequent month, the landlord give us another bank account number for our rental payment. We paid to this bank account number without problems for a few months. One day he told us that this is not his bank account again and demand to change the mode of payment to cash again. We realised that the landlord has been providing these bank account number to us so that he can make us pay his/her debt directly to the debtors (how convenient is that?). As the landlord continues to take this lightly, we consulted the agent about the matter but they are unable to step in unless the landlord refuses to sign the receipt. We printed out all the receipts for the rental paid by bank transfer for the landlord to sign.

The receipt book can be purchased in popular book stores.
Tenancy receipt templates can be download from the internet.
Please request the landlord to issue a receipt to you as a proof.
Please request the landlord to show you the bank account number in the bank book as a proof that they are the account owner.

Rental Payment Date
Our Experience:
In the tenancy agreement, it states that rental should be paid on or before the 10th monthly. However the landlord requested earlier payment of rental monthly by texting and calling our phone constantly that cause us a lot of mental stress. We are merely renting a room and not owing money to loan shark. We certainly do not deserve such treatment. The payment date move from 10th to 1st, then to 31st, 30th, 26th, 25th and then 24th (eventually we had to pay the rental half a month earlier). We inform the landlord that we are not comfortable with such arrangement and had to remind the landlord on the rental payment date stated in the tenancy agreement. Later We saw their unpaid overdue bills left on the table which tells us that they are heavily in debt. There is one occasion that the landlord request us to pay 1 more month’s rental which means that we need to pay 2 months rental in one go. Landlords should not put their financial burdens on the tenants.

Remind the landlord on the rental payment date stated in the tenancy agreement.
Keep all the text/messages/miss calls as proof of harassment.

Our Experience:
Unfortunately the toilet started to clogged on the 1st day after we move in (how coincidental). We feedback the problem to the landlord but he/she claim that the toilet has been working fine all along and advise us to use a plunger to unclog it. However the clog got worse and We had to hire professionals to do it. We paid $280 for the plumbing service as we thought that we are the only ones using the toilet. Later on we realised that the landlord are also using the toilet.

The other tenant tend to leave bits of feaces behind the toilet seat sometimes. He often comes home drunk and vomit chunks into the toilet bowl, on the toilet seat, floor and wall and walk away without cleaning it up.

The landlord tends to hock into the toilet bowl which is quite disgusting and unhygenic. We have to accept the fact that this toilet has become a public toilet. It is best to clean and flush the toilet before use as we do not want to get any diseases.

You can get a cheap and good quality plunger from homefix.
You can find DIY tips on how to unclog the toilet using dish washing liquid on YouTube.
Put some diluted dettol into a spray bottle to clean the toilet seat.
You can find spray bottles at Ikea, Fairprice and provision shops in the neighbourhood.

Bathroom Cleanliness
Our Experience:
At first the landlord told us there’s no need to clean the common area in the apartment. Then the landlord expects us to clean the bathroom without providing the cleaning liquid. So we bought our own cleaning liquid but eventually stop doing it as we believe that the landlord should be the one who does it. This is a common toilet that everybody uses. If the landlord can’t provide the cleaning liquids and come up with a simple schedule to divide the cleaning task to each tenant equally, the landlord should clean it themselves.

Try Mr Muscle cleaning liquid.
You can wear rubber sandals (e.g., crocs) to walk into the toilet if the floor is dirty.

Our Experience:
The landlord promised to get us a bed frame. It seems like he had placed the order from his relative’s shop but the bed frame did not arrive even after 9 months. We reminded the landlord a few times and all we got are excuses (e.g., the stock have not arrived yet. bed frame got no stock, his relative never follow up with him). We are reasonable people who can understand and can buy it ourself if the landlord is unable to buy one somehow. Now we can’t even buy our own bed frame as we do not know if the bed frame will eventually come one day. There is no follow up from the landlord at all.

You can get the brimnes bed frame at $149 and slatted bed base at $20 from Ikea.

Our Experience:
The landlord is a heavy smoker and he doesn’t want to open the window to clear the air or clear his ash tray after he’s done. The smoke from one cigarette/ash tray can fill up the whole apartment. He stays up and smokes throughout the night whenever he’s home. My wife and I got choked by smoke while we are asleep. My asthma has not only come back, i am also short of breath. My wife has asthma and migraine attack almost weekly as well. As a result, we haven’t been able to sleep well for a long time. Seeing a doctor will not help us solve the problem as well. My colleagues advised me to get the door bottom seem sealer and door frame sealer from homefix. After installation we can at least breath fresh clean air and get some proper sleep during the notice period.

The other tenant tends to smoke inside his room although he should have verbally agreed to no smoking in the apartment. But we can smell cigaratte smoke coming out of his door seem every day. We reported it to the landlord but he insist that the smoke is actually the tenant’s perfume smell. Isn’t that outrageous?

Get and install the door seem sealer and door frame sealer from homefix store. This is can prevent/minimise the smoke coming into the room and also prevent/minimise air con from leaking out of the room thus saving energy.
Rent the room from a non-smoker landlord who does not allow smoker tenants.

Our Experience:
We are not allowed to have the key to access to the mailbox. The landlord only collect the mail once a month. They do not bother to pass anything that belongs to us. We had to look through the stack of mails on the table ourselves. We had reminded the landlord to look out for our mail as we were waiting for an important letter. As the letter we are supposed to receive is already late, we have contacted the sender and found out that the letter had been sent. Weeks later the landlord collected the mail and left it on the table again. We verified the sent date stamp on the letter and realised that the landlord not only did not check the mailbox previously but also lied to us by saying that there was no mail for us.

Our Experience:
In the tenancy agreement, cooking is allowed. We will always check and ensure that the landlord is not using the kitchen before cooking and we always clean the stove after the cooking. At first we use the cooking stove 3 times a week (5 to 15 mins each time) and oven once a week (15 to 30 mins each time). The landlord accuse us on using too much gas and electricity. We converted the power for the oven into kilowatt hour and multiplied by the time and frequency of usage and the electricity tariff and it did not equate to the high electricity usage. Now we cook only once or twice a week and we are no longer using their oven.

Air con
Our Experience:
In the tenancy agreement, air con is available. The landlord tried to align our expectation by saying that he and his wife does not use the air con so we should try not to use it as well. We paid an additional $100 for the air con but was told not to use it. This is absurd. We googled the brand and model of the air con to find out the power consumption to calculate the electricity bill and plan our usage so that it would not burden the landlord. We use the air con only when it is absolutely necessary and for less than 2 hours a day. Even more ridiculous, the landlord told the other tenant that he can use the air con 12 hours a day.

Our Experience:
In the tenancy agreement, broadband internet is available. One day the internet was cut off. The landlord said that it was Singtel’s issue and they had to resolve it. We saw the internet bill on the table and realise that they haven’t been paying the internet bill for 6 months. The landlord requested early payment of rental again so that he could pay the broadband internet bill.

Washing Machine and Laundry Drying Rack
Our Experience:
In the tenancy agreement, usage of washing machine is not mentioned as i guess it is the industry practice that the room rental should come with it. I think this should be stated in the TA to protect the interest of the tenant. As we are a couple and we change to clean clothes everyday, we need to wash at least 3 full loads weekly (typically you need at least 2 loads as you wash whites and colour separately). At first we only wash on weekend mornings as no one is using the washing machine and the laundry drying rack is free to use. After a while we are unable to do our laundry on weekend mornings as the landlord’s wife would leave their clothes on the laundry drying rack over the weekend. Understanding that they might not have a regular pattern to do their laundry, we tried to be flexible as well by using it whenever it is available. The landlord’s wife tend to handwash their clothes and leave it in a bucket to soak. After that she would hang the clothes that are still dripping wet on the rack without squeezing dry by hand or spinning dry using the washing machine. Clothes that are dried this way have a foul smell eventually when it’s fully dry. We request the landlord to schedule a laundry day for us but they did not do so. We were then accused by the landlord that we use the washing machine everyday that they got a few hundred dollar water bill fine by PUB/SP Services. Our laundry washing pattern did not change since day one. The average water consumption for a 4 room flat is 17.9 to 19.1 cubic metre cube. Here 5 adults in the apartment use around 20 to 25 cubic metre cube per month. It has not reached 40 cubic metre cube usage to be applied with the 45% tax. We could not find any information related to water usage fine. The landlord could not produce the proof of the water usage fine.

The clothes that are dripping wet cause 3 problems:
1.access to the washing machine inconvenient (we had to use umbrella to access the laundry room to put clothes to wash).
2.laundry floor is wet and slippery.
3.our existing clothes on the rack got wet again and have the foul smell so we put it to wash again.

The washing machine is a top loading type. A black substance will stick all over on our clothes after washing even though the filter is clean.

Get the extendable aluminium pole from homefix and hang clothes in your room.
Get the fine mesh laundry bag from daiso to prevent dirt from sticking onto your clothes during the wash.
Please request the landlord to provide the proof (e.g., water bill fine if such thing actually exist) if you get a complain.

Landlord’s Lifestyle
Our Experience:
The following activity is what he does throughout the night in the living room whenever he is home.
1.Smokes cigarette.
2.Playing computer games making loud beeping noises.
3.Video chat with another woman loudly and sometimes getting feedback noises from mic.
4.Exposing himself indecently by wearing only underwear and covering his crouch area with a blanket. He will try to hide something on the computer when we walk pass to go to the kitchen sometimes.
5.There are 2 separate occasions whereby he brought home another woman when his wife is out working night shift. During chinese new year, he even slept with the woman in his bedroom. I am worried about our safety here that his wife may act violently if she finds out that her husband commits adultery.

To understand more about electricity, Water and Gas Bill in Singapore:

Sample Utilities Bill … 20Services

Tariff Rates … 8526547756

Water Pricing in Singapore

Average Water Consumption … 464caacd39

The Energy Label

Please request the landlord to provide the utilities bill for reference if they complain on high electricity, water or gas bill.

Here are some of the things you can do to understand more about electricity bill:
1.Read the above URLs.
2.Find out the brand and model of the air con and identify the energy efficiency rating (better to have at least a 3 to 4 tick).
3.Mutiply energy consumption in kilowatt hour by the number of hours, days and tariff for the month to get a rough estimate on the air con bill.
4.You can repeat step 3 on all the other electronic devices to find out the rough estimate on electricity bill.

Notice of Intent to Vacate:
In this letter, it would be good to include the following items:
1. Addressee’s Full Name
2. Address
3. Date of notice
4. Reminder to return the security deposit within a certain deadline
5. Request the right to be present during the inspection of the room
We prepared 2 letters. 1 to mail via registered article. 1 to put on the table. We also send SMS to ensure that the landlord is fully aware of the notice. You can also take a photo of the letter contents and imessage/email to the landlord. Remember to keep the posting receipt for registered article in case you need to check with SingPost on the delivery status to proof that the letter has been delivered.

Return of Security Deposit:
Our Experience:
The landlord did not bother to inspect the room, collect the keys back and return us the security deposit even after we vacated the place. We had to chase after the landlord for a week just to meet up to return the keys. The landlord issued a cheque for the return of security deposit. I went to queue up at the POSBank to process the cheque immediately. The employee returned the cheque to me and told me that they are unable to process it. I asked for the reason and was told to check with the person who issue the cheque instead. I consulted the property agent and was advised to drop the cheque into the cheque deposit box so that the bank can officially process it and let me know the reason if the cheque bounces. Soon a “Return Cheque Advice” was mailed to me and the reason states the cheque issuer’s account is closed. I called up the bank wanting to find out if the landlord have another account but they are unable to release the information due to bank secrecy. The bank advised me to report it to the police who will then request the bank to investigate this matter.

The “Return Cheque Advice” document consists of the photograph of the cheque under “Image Return Document” section which may be useful to be submitted as the proof to small claim tribunals later.

Small Claims Tribunal:
Our Experience:
We chased after the landlord for months but all we get are empty promises. The landlord did not bother to follow up with us to return the security deposit (not even a single cent or by instalment). The landlord rejected all our calls and ignored our text messages. This is the typical behaviour of someone who does not want to return you the money. This continued for 5 months and we are left with no choice but to lodge the claim to SCT. We followed the instructions on the SCT website to lodge the claim. The process is simple and not as time consuming as I thought it would be.

1st Trip: Lodge the claim
SCT will mail a letter to the respondent to attend the consultation that is fixed 10 days later.

2nd Trip: Consultation for Claimant and Respondent
As expected the respondent did not show up. Since the landlord only check the mail once a month, the deadline is already over by the time he sees the mail. The registrar postponed the consultation and issue a letter for me to hand deliver to the respondent. I only managed to hand it to the other tenant to put on the table for the landlord to see. In addition, I took a photo of the contents of the letter and email to the landlord. I also SMS the contents of the letter to the landlord’s mobile phone and remind the landlord to attend the consultation.

3rd Trip: Consultation for Claimant and Respondent
The landlord showed up miraculously. He asked why I lodge the claim to SCT. I no longer feel like talking to him after going through all of the above. The landlord realised how serious this is when he face the registrar in person. He became revengeful and ask the registrar if he can lodge a claim against me without even understanding why do people lodge a claim here at SCT in the first place. The registrar issued the order of tribunal for the landlord to return the security deposit on the agreed date. I think the registrar also noticed that the landlord’s aura has turned revengeful so he said:

Both landlord and tenant are important people. What happened has already happened. We should put these behind our back and move on.

Finally on pay back day, I got the money back after text messaging the landlord every half hourly to remind him to return the security deposit.

Small Claims Tribunal Website

Videos to provide an overview of the procedures

The subordinate courts building is a short walking distance from China Town MRT.

Certain landlords may take advantage of tenants no matter what country you’re from, even if you are a local. It is good to do research and tackle issues in an educated manner thus defending yourself whenever necessary. Tenants and landlords are not supposed to be enemies. We all just want a better life.