One of the most important matters to settle when you relocate to a new country is your accommodation. In Singapore, it is not so easy for expatriates to purchase a property, due to the rules and regulations, thus many end up renting to house themselves and their families.
Renting a property in Singapore is fairly easy. Singapore offers numerous types of properties for rental, from a single bedroom in the government owned apartments, called the Housing Development Board (HDB), to private condominium units, terraces and bungalows. When it comes to renting properties in Singapore, you can choose to either source out a place on your own or use the services of a property agent, which is the recommended way to rent in Singapore. As per the usual Singapore-style, there are rules and regulations involving property rentals. Therefore, it is best to hire someone who knows the ins and outs of the industry to avoid any trouble. Another reason to use a property agent is due to the fact that some landlords in Singapore would rather deal with an agent rather then the potential tenant directly.
In Singapore, it is not difficult to find a property agent to enlist as you can easily find their advertisements in newspapers, leaflets, bulletin board postings, and online. However, it is recommended that you hire someone from a reputable company, such as PropNex or ERA, to avoid disappointment. While many are under the perception that it is best to enlist the services of as many agents as possible, we would recommend you use the services of just one. By dealing with one agent, they will be able to fully understand your requirements for a home and try to meet your needs. Also, using one agent will avoid the unnecessary viewing of the same property more than once. You should be very specific about your budget, needs and wants (i.e.: train station proximity, schools, etc.), with your agent to enable them to find the perfect place for you to rent. Once that is done, your property agent will then proceed to arrange home viewings for you so you can find a suitable property.
If you are renting an entire HDB unit, ensure that your landlord has proper permission from the government to rent out the entire property. You can request to see the permission slip granted by the authorities prior to agreeing on the home. In Singapore, HDB apartment owners are not allowed to rent an entire apartment without the government’s permission. There are some landlords who rent the entire apartment without proper permission and will lock one room in the apartment to make it appear that they are living with their tenants. Please note that this is a crime in Singapore, which can result in unnecessary trouble for both parties if found out by officials.
After you have selected a property, you and your landlord will have to sign a Letter of Intent (LOI), stating your intention to rent the place, the rental cost, and some important points of the agreement between you and the landlord. If you hired a property agent, then you need not worry about this document, as they will get it prepared for you. It’s best to get this document done as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of losing the place to another tenant.
Following the LOI will be the tenancy agreement, which usually specifies a lease period of a year or more. Be sure to read through the agreement to confirm that everything discussed and promised between you and your landlord is printed in black and white and acknowledged by both parties. Once everything is final, the agreement will have to be stamped by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) for it to be considered a valid contract.
As an expatriate, it is important that you request for a diplomatic clause in your tenancy agreement. The diplomatic clause will allow you to terminate the contract in cases where your services in Singapore have been terminated or you have been transferred to another country by your company. This clause also ensures that your landlord will return your security deposit, which is usually a month’s rent, accordingly.
To confirm your rental of the property, most landlords may ask for a “booking” deposit of a month’s rent on top of your security deposit. This deposit can be used to offset either your first month’s rent or the last month’s rent depending on your agreement with your landlord. In the event that your tenancy agreement duration is up, you can choose to have it renewed, provided both parties agree.
Also worth checking if you are a new expat to Singapore is our How to become a permanent resident in Singapore Guide and if you are looking to buy a house in Singapore, check out our Househunting guide and Property guides!