8 useful tips to make the renting process stress-free for tenants
From writing your first enquiry email to what to check on the Tenancy Agreement, here's how to make renting easier for you.
There are situations when you might consider renting instead of buying a HDB flat. For instance, you could be waiting for your key to your next home. Or you might want to exert your independence by moving out of the family roost. Or you might have just relocated to Singapore for work or study.
Whatever the reason, renting in Singapore is generally safe and with these eight points to get you started, it can be an easy process, too.
1. CREATE AN EMAIL TEMPLATE
You’ll probably end up sending the same email to communicate various requirements, such as bringing along your cat, you need to smoke in the apartment, or a swimming pool is mandatory. Rather than writing a fresh email each time, along with the same questions/requirements, why not craft an email template? You'll just need to edit the name and address before sending the email to multiple agents or landlords.
2. USE DROPBOX OR GOOGLE DRIVE TO STORE RELEVANT DOCUMENTS
Whether it’s a Letter of Intent (LOI), Tenancy Agreement (TA) or just pictures of units you're interested in, store them all in one place. This serves two purposes: First, you can quickly reference what you need, rather than having to comb through emails or text messages.
Second, it protects you legally. For example, you can store your record of payments to the landlord, or cross-check your renewed TA against the previous one. You can also save your application materials in one place. This can include your work pass, student visa, reference letters, and other documents a landlord may need to check. It's important that you get your act together for this because losing a crucial document can sometimes cost you part of your security deposit.
3. FIRST TIME RENTING? GET A PROPERTY AGENT
Depending on the length of your lease, your agent’s commission may not cost as much as you think (relative to the assurances you get). This is because the landlord has the upper hand in Singapore, but an agent can help you to navigate the scene.
For instance, there are no standardised TAs, so it all boils down to what your landlord gets you to agree to. If you sign a TA that says you’ll bear the full cost of repairs (even though that’s not the norm), don’t expect the law to intervene to get you off the hook. A property agent can warn you about these non-standard clauses.
Most importantly, agents often have an inside view on the various properties. They may know, for example, that the condo owners are about to sue the developer because the pool has to be closed for repair every other month. Or if you rent a unit along Middle Road, you have to contend with the delays, no thanks to the many traffic lights on that single stretch of road to Bugis.
But once you’re familiar with how rentals work, strike out on your own to save money.
4. FURNISHED FIRST, UNFURNISHED SECOND
It’s common for many tenants to rent a place for a short while, say six months, to test it out; then return for the long term after they'd decided that they like the place. Our advice for this instance is to opt for furnished units first, and unfurnished second. This will save you the hassle of having to buy furnishings, which you can’t easily bring with you anyway.
For your long-term rent, an unfurnished unit will let you build a setting that fits your lifestyle – and save you money too as unfurnished units are usually cheaper. It also lowers the risk of damaging something on the inventory list; the longer you stay, the greater the odds you’ll break an appliance or dent a desk.
5. DON'T JUST ASK FOR PERMISSION TO HAVE A PET
Just because your landlord says your labrador is alright doesn’t mean HDB permits it. In the event that your pet contravenes the rules of what animals you can keep, your landlord’s permission means nothing. You can always seek legal recourse because your landlord misinformed you but we trust you don’t have the time for that.
Note that cats are not technically allowed in HDB flats, no matter what you may have seen. As for condominiums, you can usually bring anything the landlord permits, but check to be sure.
6. ASK FOR THE SECURITY PASS AND PARKING DEVICE
Most condominiums will require you to have a security pass to enter the premises. For your car, you may have a device that’s stuck to your dashboard, or on the windscreen. Don’t forget to ask your landlord for these before you move in. If your landlord wants you to pay an extra S$100 for a security pass, or pay for an extra parking space, you’ll want to know about it early.
There have also been situations where a landlord fails to provide the security pass and the tenant couldn't even get past the gate on moving day. It doesn't help when the security guard doesn’t believe you live there now. Not a spot you want to be in, when the driver of the moving van is glaring at you, and the security guard is hollering at you to get out.
7. ASSESS HOW CROWDED THE FACILITIES ARE
A gym is much less attractive when the queue to use the treadmill is longer than the one outside Hai Di Lao. And don’t even get us started on the pool. In condominiums with a high number of residents, 50 per cent of the pool water might be bodily fluids on the weekends. Remember, residents sometimes invite their relatives and friends over to use the facilities and that adds to the crowd. There have been cases where residents resort to using a public pool or joining a commercial gym out of frustration. So, check before you rent. While you’re at it, also check that the wait list to book the clubhouse or BBQ pits shouldn't be a month-long wait. It’s your condominium, not the chalets at Downtown East.
8. CHECK IF THE LANDLORD'S HOME CONTENT INSURANCE APPLIES TO YOU
Some landlords have it, some landlords don’t (you can talk to an insurance agent to buy your own if yours doesn't). But many tenants forget home content insurance even exists. It can be very useful for when, say, you’re away in Bali for a few days and a power trip caused the groceries in the fridge to turn foul. You return to find a week’s worth of ruined produce, and an odour to last a lifetime. It's good to know that home content insurance can sometimes cover the cost of the groceries. Home content insurance can also cover belongings lost in fires, burglaries, and other improbable events. So, there’s no harm in asking if you’re covered.
This story first appeared in 99.co.