Buying in Singapore—Five problems landlords may not see coming
10 June 2017
Congratulations on becoming a new landlord! After the initial euphoria,
you may find the journey akin to a badly designed roller-coaster ride,
or having to sit through the Tom Cruise Mummy reboot – long periods of
nothing very much happening, punctuated by bouts of confusion and
urgency. To get you started, here are a few small details no one
thought to mention in property guides – problems landlords may face –
testing both your patience and pocket:
1. Someone has to pay for the resident’s access pass (and is that someone you?)
You need to check whether every resident in your unit needs an access
pass. In most cases everyone does, but some condos are a little more
relaxed about it than others. Unfortunately, these passes don’t come
cheap; most condos charge up to $100 per pass.
So if you have eight resident tenants, say a family of seven and their
helper, that’s potentially $800 you need to fork out. Some owners
require tenants to pay for this, other landlords cover the cost, while
another group may choose to split the tab with their tenants.
You may want to vary your policy based on the terms in your lease. For
example, you could cover the cost if the rental lease spans two years.
But in the case of shorter leases (six-months for instance), you may
request for the tenant to pay for the access pass(es).
Do bring up this issue as early as you can with your tenant. I’m sure
they wouldn’t welcome facing an unexpected charge of a few hundred
dollars, any more than you do. You’ll also want to be upfront about the
consequences of lost or damaged passes – make it clear that your
tenants that they are responsible for those. It is their prerogative to
inform you if any of the above happens.
Bear in mind that some tenants who lose their pass won’t tell you;
they’ll just sneak past the security guard post (most guards don’t stop
residents they already recognise). Make your own judgement call on
this; if you want give some leeway to your tenant, you can choose to
turn a blind eye.
A note of caution though – the condo’s management may not take so kindly to “pass-less” tenants and take the issue up with you.
2. Tenant aka moonlighting house-wrecker (on the side)
Some tenants may run an undisclosed side-business from your property.
The most common side-line we know of is unlicensed bakeries; we’ve also
heard of tenants running unlicensed TCM clinics, pottery classes, and
in one case, martial arts classes (horror of horrors!) from their
rented homes. The absolute worst-case scenario we imagine, is for a
tenant to use their rented premise as an unlicensed brothel, although
we’ve never personally encountered that (thank goodness!).
In any case, new landlords often make the mistake of not checking up on
the tenant. We suggest you make a habit of dropping by at least every
four to six months to keep a close eye on your place. If your property
is being looked after by a property agent, remind your agent to do his
job and check in on the tenant from time to time.
You’ll want to make sure that whatever side-business the tenant is
running, it adheres to guidelines laid out by the authorities and does
not cause any damage to your property. You may wish to take this one
step further by stipulating clearly what businesses / activities the
tenants can operate in your unit.
3. You hired a lousy contractor, and now you have to pick up (or pay up) after him
If you don’t know the contractor, it is your responsibility to keep a
close eye on him. Make sure you have a watertight contract – that they
are liable for any damage or fines incurred.
Some contractors have caused their hirers forfeiture of their security
deposit – a cheque you put down with the condo management whilst
renovations are being carried out as insurance against any possible
If your workmen clog up the garbage chute, damage the lift interior
with debris or equipment, or dent your neighbour’s door, it’s all on
you and a responsibility you have to bear.
In addition to the cost of repairs, there’s also the issue of wasting
precious time; often you’ll be caught in the middle of a shouting match
between your management council saying “yes they did” and your
contractor saying “no we didn’t”. Mediating between these two parties
is like running a preschool – an annoying and migraine inducing full
For simplicity’s sake, make sure your contractor is (1) properly
insured, and (2) fully supervised while carrying out important works,
such as hacking walls.
Endeavour to only hire contractors referred by people you trust; don’t
make a beeline for someone you don’t know, just because he’s the
cheapest contractor on the block.
4. Forgetting to duplicate keys for individual rooms
This counts as one of those silly, absent-minded things that inadvertently happen, and costs everyone time and effort.
We know of some rookie landlords who happily furnish their tenant with
every single key in the house without keeping a duplicate set for
themselves. Big mistake. Huge!
All it takes is an innocent gust of wind, or a mistake on the tenant’s part, to result in a firmly locked door in the house.
With no duplicate key available, the only thing left for you to do is
to call and pay for the service of a locksmith. This can be expensive
and time consuming. So please remember, make duplicates sets of all the
room keys, not just that of the front door.
Bonus scenario: you may have lost the keys to each individual bedroom a
long time ago. What if you find yourself having three to four unrelated
tenants (perhaps your next rental is to a batch of students) descending
upon your property?
Not everyone wants to leave their door unlocked when they go out. Don’t
forget to engage a locksmith early; a lot of first-time landlords
completely overlook this and scramble to take action only after their
tenants demand to have the keys to their own bedrooms.
5. Your new
tenant is ready to move in, but your old tenant has left behind a ton
of stuff (which may be valuable) at the premise
Some tenants take forever to finish moving out after their lease has
come to an end. It can be a problem if the new tenant is moving on
Wednesday, and on Tuesday night the old tenant’s huge fish tank,
antique lockbox, and paint canvasses are still in the house.
You could find yourself in hot soup for throwing out your former
tenant’s belongings, depending on the clause in your rental agreement.
However, by the same token, your new tenant has a right to full
occupancy of the space once their rental lease kicks in.
To err on the side of caution, check with your property agent to see if
the rental agreement gives you the right to throw out all unclaimed
possessions by a certain date when push comes to shove. To save
yourself from all this grief and suffering, put in writing before the
expiration of the old lease when your former tenant has to vacate his
or her possessions fully by, and make them liable for any disposal
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