Annoying aspects of renting in Singapore

Every major city has its own renting horror stories. I've rented all my life, and I must say our recent move in Singapore had points of note. Lets start with most annoying:

No standard contract (or deposit scheme)

Contracts are often one sided, copied and pasted from somewhere and basically not seen or properly analysed until a letter of intent is done. Lets just say the basic Singapore contract is not consumer friendly, much like any buying experience in Singapore. For example a typical landlord's contract states: if you are renting for two years and if you don't like the place, you basically can't get out of it. Rationale is the agent/landlord are preventing you from renting some place cheaper in the next two years.

What's the letter of intent aka Goodfaith Deposit (booking deposit)? That's an initial deposit made by you the tenant to basically put a block on the property for a week. You should get the deposit back if negotiation of finer points of the contract fail (e.g. you might want to negotiate diplomatic / break clause, right to sublet), but that's often not clear at all either.

Update: I've come to notice Backup. Section 9c and (removing) 6c is of interest to me.

Agents & agents

In Europe you typically deal direct with the Landlord.

In Singapore, you generally always deal via agents.

If you are very unlucky you can go through TWO agents. I.e.:

Typically an agent's fee is half month for a one year lease. A friend of mine actually got done for twice for agent fees.

If you manage to negotiate an early termination clause, typically agents will pro-rata bill their fee in to you, the tenant, since landlord's do not want to pay it.

I guess it's just a cultural difference here in Singapore. Landlord's seem very hands off and greedy which is very worrying. Have PLENTY of patience for a negotiation and take the initiative and WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WANT. Do not let them write down the clause if possible. Even it goes your way, it's not unusual for it to be re-negotiated again and again since they have the control over the words.


Yes, racism is legal in Singapore. Basically if you are a foreigner / expat you might not get access to HDB properties (quota system). Other than that, Expats are largely treated as fair game by property agencies and landlords. The reverse can be true, 'Ang mohs' might get preferential treatment. It just feels a bit weird to me.

Also realise that most Singaporeans don't rent. Only foreigners do. The odds are not in your favour.

Finding a property

There is where most agents list & dotCom darlings like basically just plot their data on a map. is a good site if you are relatively new to Singapore and you are looking to minimise your commute. Singapore is quite strange in the sense that even fairly central places can be VERY difficult to commute from due to no or poorly placed bus lines or SMRT links.

In practice these services are very far from comprehensive and you end up constantly dealing with very little information and if you're organised, your own spreadsheet. For example layout plans are very rare. It's only when you have taken the trouble to make an appointment with an agent and time off you can actually figure out what they mean by "two room".

Forget doing stuff efficiently asynchronously over email. Tip: Try to get the landlord's email / telephone without the agent involved, since agents are often slow down the entire process.

Some random tips I am throwing in here

Many landlords view the deposit as a way to refresh their apartment’s paint and curtains every 2 years or so. So take a lot of pictures as you move in. Some expats honestly advise simply not paying the last month's rent.

Agreements often state that if an item above ~150SGD needs repair, the landlord pays. Though some agreements are quite shifty in the sense that if your fridge dies, you need to pay the first 150SGD or the landlord only pays 150SGD.

Some bus and SMRT lines are simply not practical to commute in with. For example: Bus 67 & the Green line are usually overcrowded in peak times.


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