Landlords are like the strangers you meet in bars on weekday nights. You don’t know if you’ll find a new best buddy, or if you’ll be prying his fingers off your throat after his fourth beer. But experience can teach you to spot crazy, just as it can a landlord from hell. Here’s what to watch for:
1. The landlord from hell asks for advance rental before handing over the keys
This is often a prelude to the oldest scam in the industry. In 2013, a landlord and his accomplice raked in in two weeks by stealing advance rentals. The standard tactic is to collect advance rental from multiple tenants, and then disappear with the money.
So don’t hand over the advance rental before you’re holding the keys, and standing in front of the apartment.
2. The landlord from hell asks for an unusually large security deposit
The standard amount for a security deposit, in Singapore, is one month’s rent for every year on the lease. This are some variations on this, but beware of bizarre “deals” by landlords.
For example, a landlord may promise lower rent in return for a bigger security deposit, because that makes them “feel safer”. But you may find, after your lease is over, that your landlord won’t return your security deposit of six months.
(They will pick at little things, such as fair wear and tear on carpets, or peeling wallpaper, as justification for retaining the deposit.)
3. The landlord from hell locks one room in a HDB flat
Do you not watch horror movies? This is the premise of almost every haunted house movie ever.
Even assuming the locked room doesn’t contain the raging anger of a thousand dead souls, there’s a good chance the landlord is doing something shady. See, in Singapore, there are rules that prevent some flat owners from renting out their whole unit. Some flat owners circumvent this by locking up one room, and then claiming “There, I haven’t rented out the whole unit.”
If HDB finds out, it will become a serious hassle for you. If your landlord gets busted, you will be out looking for a new place to stay; and who knows how long it will take to get your refund?
Besides, a landlord who’s shady enough to cheat government probably has no qualms about ripping you off too.
4. The landlord from hell insists on “private arrangements”
Landlords who do this often exclude a property agent, even if they have one*.
Some landlords may be genuine about these arrangements, but many are not. When a landlord works with an agent, the agent has a responsibility to check that the ownership papers are in order, that the landlord isn’t about to have the house repossessed in a few months, etc.
Landlords who have something to hide will not, obviously, want an agent in the picture. They will say they are “saving on commissions” as an excuse, but what they really want may be to hide legal complications.
These private arrangements may involve non-standard practices, such as agreeing to extra fees or avoiding the apartment at certain hours. Our suggestion is to run when you hear these offers.
(*After you meet, the landlord will contact you privately and suggest the two of you make a deal without any agents.)
5. The landlord from hell refuses to meet face-to-face
At best, this is a landlord who is likely to be unresponsive. If she won’t even meet you to get the lease signed, what are the odds she’ll be quick to respond to plumbing problems, or a broken air-conditioner? You don’t want a landlord who is perpetually too busy to help you.
At worst, this is a common “fake landlord” scam. You’re sent pictures of the unit, and asked to send the deposit (maybe with some fake extra fees) to a bank account. But when you actually arrive, there will be no rental unit and the “landlord” will be missing.
Check out other rental related articles here: 7 rental hidden costs: is that cheap rental unit too good to be true? and Revised occupancy cap for renting out HDB flats to take effect May 2018
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