5 problems landlords may not see coming

7 min read


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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 damage.

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 time job.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 costs incurred.

Check out other rental related articles here: Difficult tenants. Top tips to save yourself from dealing with them and Tenant’s guide to the Letter of Intent 

Find the rental home of your dreams today at Singapore’s largest property portal 99.co!

Looking to sell your property?

Whether your HDB apartment is reaching the end of its Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) or your condo has crossed its Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) window, it is always good to know how much you can potentially gain if you were to list and sell your property. Not only that, you’ll also need to know whether your gains would allow you to right-size to the dream home in the neighbourhood you and your family have been eyeing.

One easy way is to send us a request for a credible and trusted property consultant to reach out to you.

Alternatively, you can jump onto 99.co’s Property Value Tool to get an estimate for free.

If you’re looking for your dream home, be it as a first-time or seasoned homebuyer or seller – say, to upgrade or right-size – you will find it on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal 99.co.

Meanwhile, if you have an interesting property-related story to share with us, drop us a message here — and we’ll review it and get back to you.

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