Choosing the right home is a huge part of ensuring a happy experience in Singapore. Most expats rent an apartment or house (known here as landed property) for a two-year lease with the option to renew. Breaking a lease is costly so it’s worth taking the time to choose the neighbourhood and property that works for you. (If you’re looking to purchase a property, check out our buyer’s guide instead.)
We asked DEBORAH LAW from Expat Realtor for her top tips for renting a property in Singapore. She’s got over 16 years of experience in the Singapore market, so we know she’s got it covered!
Step 1: Find an agent
* Word of mouth is usually best when it comes to finding the right agent.
* Use a single agent who will then commit to you 100 percent; agents here are paid on a commission-only basis. Registering with multiple agents can be a time-waster as they all access the same database of properties on the market.
* If you do decide on more than one agent, tell them upfront which properties you’ve already viewed to avoid duplication.
Step 2: Understand commissions
* Commission is negotiable; however, the rule of thumb is that the amount is half a month’s rent per year of lease.
* The agent cannot collect commission or fees from more than one party in a transaction; if they collect a commission from you, they can’t collect a commission or co-broking fee or payment from the other party or their agent.
* There are prescribed agreements for the sale, purchase or lease of residential properties in Singapore – these can be found at www.cea.gov.sg.
Step 3: Look for properties
* Limit your viewing to no more than five or six properties at a time.
* Tell your agent what you’re looking for in terms of price, location and minimum number of bedrooms.
* Don’t get too stuck on style, but do stipulate if you need a balcony, small grass area or larger outdoor space. Many people end up doing a complete U-turn on their initial criteria – for example, by choosing more space over something very modern.
* Do mention if you have animals at the beginning of the search.
* Take photos when viewing to review afterwards and to show other members of the family.
Step 4: Draw up a Letter of Intent
* Once you’ve found a place you like, request a second viewing to make a note of any damaged fixtures (broken taps, rusty hobs and so on) in a document known as a Letter of Intent (LOI). Changes not requested in the LOI are almost impossible to implement after the lease has been signed.
* Be reasonable with your requests; you don’t want to risk your offer being rejected because you appear to be a “difficult tenant”.
Step 5: Sign a Tenancy Agreement
* Ensure you’re covered by a Diplomatic Clause in the Tenancy Agreement. This allows expats to break their leases after 14 months (12 months plus two months’ notice) if, for whatever reason, they have to leave Singapore. Leases may not be broken on any other grounds.
* At the time of handover, make sure all your requests have been met. You or your agent should take notes on the Inventory List and photograph any defects such as damaged flooring or broken items. This will protect you at the termination of the lease.
* Signing your contracts and moving in should not be the end of the relationship with your agent. A good agent will keep in touch to provide ongoing advice and help with the hand-back of the unit at the end of the lease.
Step 6: Make any required payments
* Two deposits are required: one month’s rent payable with the LOI, and two months’ rent with the Tenancy Agreement. One month’s payment goes towards the first month’s rental and is called the good faith deposit, or holding deposit. The second is held as the security deposit and returned by the landlord interest-free (minus the cost of making good any damage) at the end of the lease.
* The tenant is also required to pay the stamp duty.
* Note that, for apartments, your rental usually includes the service charge for general maintenance of the common facilities. For landed properties, there is no service charge, but as with apartments, you are responsible for minor repairs and routine maintenance, payment of public utilities, telephone and cable TV services, and servicing of air-conditioning units. All of this is covered in the Tenancy Agreement.
Need help with renting? Call Expat Realtor at 9171 3392 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more in our property section