Bad home rental tips for tenants are the second worst form of advice after unsolicited (parenting tips are the first, and should be punished by mandatory babysitting). It’s time we addressed the most dangerous (i.e. potentially costly) ones that are persistently floating around on internet forums:
1. Pay huge amounts of advance rent to lower rental cost
This “negotiation tactic” is to pay a large amount in advance — such as six month’s rent every half-yearly — in exchange for a discount. Whoever came up with this probably also writes supermarket shopping tips and equates renting an apartment with bulk-buy toilet rolls.
Do consider what happens if — for some reason — you need to leave soon after paying a six-month rent. A dishonest landlord could go out of his way to find reasons to evict you, and getting your money back will be a nightmare.
2. Trust that the agent is obliged to tell all
Want to know if the apartment has loan shark issues? Want to know if someone committed a murder in one of the bedrooms? Just ask the agent and trust the agent, because regulators require full disclosure.
But, do you know who isn’t subject to these regulations?
The actual landlord. You see, there is nothing, beyond conscience, that stops a landlord from lying to her own property agent. The agent can’t “fully disclose” what he/she doesn’t know in the first place.
So, don’t just take the agent’s word for it. Do your own checks — look for markings of loan shark activity and talk to neighbours, for instance. We once had a tenant sign the Tenancy Agreement (TA) to rent a landed home, only to find out from a Google search afterwards that the owner opposite had a track record of aggressive and hostile actions against his neighbours, such as shining a bright (we mean stadium-bright) light directly at the house that our poor tenant had just rented.
3. Unfurnished units save you money
This is another common one you see on forums: the theory that unfurnished units are always better, because the rent for these are lower. And if you buy all your own furniture, you can get cheap used items off Carousell (or any online/mobile selling-buying platform) and leave it at the property when you go.
But, unless you are really on a budget (i.e. getting by on less than $300 worth of furniture and sleeping on a mattress), whether renting an unfurnished unit actually saves you money is a questionable argument. There’s also the time spent and additional transport costs you incur in obtaining said furniture. So it’s hard to justify renting an unfurnished unit.
That said, if you do choose a fully-furnished unit, be careful of what it’s furnished with. If the landlord has a designer floor lamp or a Ming-dynasty vase and you intend to move in with the family, ask the landlord to remove these items. When you sign the TA, make sure these expensive and fragile items aren’t listed in the inventory if you can’t afford to have your security deposit forfeited in case of damage. We’ve had a tenant tell of a landlord who tried to forfeit his entire deposit because of a tiny scratch on his $20,000 designer sofa.
4. Always choose mature estates
In a wide and general sense, this is true. Mature estates, such as Tiong Bahru, are more developed and self contained than, say, West Coast. But you need to evaluate the property based on your needs, not on general guidelines.
A unit in a mature district may have a shopping mall right next door, or there could be a really cool vibe with bars and cafes and boutiques. That’s great. But ask yourself: how often do you actually use these amenities? Thing is: the initial excitement of certain amenities might wear off. We know of an expat who fell in love with Marine Parade — a seaside estate with higher than average rent — on first sight, rented a condo there, but never actually got around to visiting the beach! He could’ve been better off in a Telok Kurau or Joo Chiat, where rents can be slightly lower.
A unit in a less-developed neighbourhood could offer you more open space, more peace and quiet, and significantly lower rental costs, and still provide easy access to the CBD via public transport. And, with online delivery services (e.g. food and grocery), it makes even more sense to consider a nice living environment that doesn’t have that many amenities at its doorsteps.
So don’t confine your search to mature estates, even if everyone you meet seems to parrot this advice.
5. Go without an agent and save on commission
This is frequently touted as a way to avoid agency fees, and some landlords may even initiate the process by posting their own listings on forum-like pages or portals that bypass agents. Without getting into the legal speak, just know that these situations are disadvantageous to tenants. After all, you’re the one who needs protecting, not the guy who owns the house.
As a tenant, it’s vital you need an agent to ensure the owners are who they claim to be, that the property is not about to be foreclosed on, that the other tenants are not illegals, and the landlord’s identity and good standing can be verified etc. Skipping all these, in order to save on agent commission, is false savings. We know of a tenant who, on the day of move, found that another tenant had moved in! Turns out that the landlord had signed a TA with another party to let out the whole house — the landlord skipped town with our victim’s deposit and left her stranded with no place to stay.
You don’t necessarily have to look for an agent to represent you. Just make sure the landlord is represented by a CEA-registered property agent. A good way to start is to look for rental property on Singapore’s largest property portal 99.co, which only has listings put up by CEA-registered agents.
Voice your thoughts in the comments section or on our Facebook community page.
If you found these tips for tenants helpful, 99.co recommends 99.co Guide: Breaking lease and early termination of Tenancy Agreement and East Region of Singapore: The best neighbourhoods for you
Find the rental home of your dreams today at Singapore’s largest property portal 99.co!