Guide to breaking lease and early termination of tenancy agreement in Singapore

9 min read

In Singapore, tenancy agreements typically include a lease term of between six months to two years. During this period of time, the tenant is legally obliged to pay the amount of rent outlined in the tenancy agreement (TA) with the landlord.

However, due to unforeseen circumstances, there could be a need for either party to break the lease. In this article, we explore what these circumstances are and their consequences. So landlords and tenants in Singapore will know what to do in the event of early termination of the tenancy agreement.

Person tearing a tenancy agreement.
Breaking lease and early termination of your rental contract can cause a lot of frustration and stress.

(If you’re looking for a place to rent in Singapore, browse the latest listings of units for rent and rooms for rent in Singapore on 99.co.)

What a tenancy agreement (TA) entails

Tenants and landlords should be aware of the terms set out in the tenancy agreement before they sign it. After all, the very nature of the TA is to avoid any conflict or miscommunication between both parties.

(Read this article for more info about what should be included in the TA.)

In most cases, the TA should contain terms that ensure the tenant(s) has exclusive possession of the property within a stipulated duration. Moreover, tenant(s) should be able to live without intrusions and disruptions to their personal space, security and/or belongings during the aforementioned period of occupancy.

On the other hand, tenants too have a responsibility to uphold the obligations set forth in the terms of the contract. Basic terms include:

  • Rent payment for the duration of stay
  • Upkeep and maintenance of the property
  • An agreement not to sublet the property for personal profit
  • An agreement to bear the burden for utilities/repairs (unless otherwise stated)
  • The start and end date of occupancy

Check out the sample tenancy agreements for HDB and private property to have a clearer idea of the terms and clauses included.

Ending a tenancy early

It is often concerning the last point mentioned above where disputes arise. Once the tenancy agreement has been signed and approved, the tenancy may be terminated only when either the landlord or tenant gives prior and appropriate notice.

The notice period corresponds with the length of the tenancy period and the frequency of rent payment. In tenancies where the rent is paid monthly, the appropriate period of notice should be one month. In most instances, one month is the minimum notice period.

When tenants break a lease early

Tenants should not end their tenancy prematurely without first notifying their landlords. It is always advisable to obtain the landlord’s consent before proceeding with vacating the premises.

Sometimes, the landlord may object to the tenant’s request to end the tenancy if it does not comply with the TA. Hence, they may request for full payment of the month’s notice or other forms of compensation if the minimum rental period or lease is not fulfilled.

This is where the security deposit comes into play. Typically equivalent to one month’s rent, the security deposit is often used as a safeguard against early termination of a tenancy agreement in Singapore. This is in addition to its intended function of paying for reparations to damages (if any) found during the course of the tenancy.

To avoid legal conflict, landlords should ascertain the likelihood of ending the lease early and, based on this, clearly establish the parameters for early termination terms and penalties to be specified in the TA.

Tenants, meanwhile, should inform landlords of any factor(s) that may contribute to early termination of the lease, for example, a work transfer overseas.

There are instances when breaking a lease is inevitable such as:

  • Tenant relocated overseas by their company
  • The tenant’s employment terminated
  • The tenant is ordered to leave the country by authorities (e.g. employment pass not renewed)

As a tenant, to indemnify against monetary penalties when such issues occur, it’s best that they negotiate such clauses to be included in the tenancy agreement before signing it.

The Diplomatic Clause

Because of cultural norms and public housing policy, the rental market in Singapore tends to be very expat-centric. This is why most tenancy agreements will include a Diplomatic Clause — also known as a Get-Out Clause or minimum rental period. These are the typical terms for a Diplomatic Clause:

Six-month lease: No Diplomatic Clause or three months minimum rental

One-year lease: Six months minimum rental

Two-year lease: 12 months minimum rental

(The minimum period for renting an HDB room or unit is six months, while the minimum period for private property rentals is three months.)

Usually, the Diplomatic Clause is included for a two-year lease, with a minimum stay of one year. After that, the tenant can exercise the clause and give at least a two-month notice or pay two months worth of rent in lieu of the notice.

It serves as a safeguard for the tenant who may encounter unexpected changes in work arrangements. With this clause, the tenant won’t need to provide any compensation as well.

The Reimbursement Clause

Auxiliary to the Diplomatic Clause is the Reimbursement Clause. Seldom included in the TA nowadays, this clause covers fees paid to the agent by the landlord at the commencement of the lease. Upon exercising the Diplomatic Clause, the tenant is liable to reimburse the landlord with these fees on a pro-rata basis, if the Reimbursement Clause is included in the TA.

The En Bloc Clause

The En Bloc Clause serves to provide the landlord with the option to terminate the lease prematurely in the event of the entire building being sold for redevelopment. While this is relatively rare, the inclusion of this clause gives the landlord the ability to end the lease early without having to compensate the tenant.

Breaking lease without these clauses

What happens if your tenancy agreement did not include these clauses or you find yourself in the predicament of breaking your lease before the Diplomatic Clause period? What are your options then?

The purpose of the Diplomatic and Reimbursement Clauses is to ensure an equitable and fair resolution in the event of a trying situation. Without these clauses, it is still possible to negotiate this with your landlord on your own by understanding the losses that they will incur with your early termination of rental in Singapore.

Primarily, there is a loss of rental income. Finding a replacement tenant takes time and effort and having the property remain empty would be a significant loss. To mitigate this, as a tenant, what you can do is search for a tenant to take over your lease until the end of its term.

Prior to searching for a replacement tenant yourself, however, you should make sure the landlord is agreeable to this arrangement. Be prepared to make sure that the replacement tenant pays the same amount of rent. Sometimes, this could entail subsidising the replacement tenant’s rent until the termination of the lease.

These clauses are vital to protecting yourself as a tenant. If these clauses are not in the tenancy agreement, you are liable to pay for rent until the end of the lease term.

When landlords break leases early

Despite property law in Singapore strongly favouring the landlord over the tenant, landlords terminating the lease is a fairly rare situation. As a tenant, having open communication with the landlord and seeking fair compensation would be the best solution in the case of any disputes.

Landlords breaking the lease should also realise the costs incurred by the tenant and compensate the tenant accordingly. In some cases, this could entail refunding the rent for the notice period the landlord provides, along with the security deposit.

Legally, however, the tenant is well within their rights to reside in the property until the end of the lease. If a wrongful eviction takes place, the tenant could resort to pursuing a case with the Small Claims Tribunal if the lease does not exceed two years.

Eviction of a tenant

If the terms of the tenancy agreement — such as non-payment of rent — have been breached, the landlord may choose to end the contract early and evict the tenant.

To this end, it is important that the landlord expressly stipulates the right of re-entry in the TA. The landlord must also serve notice specifying the breach, the compensation sought and the course of action they wish the tenant to take.

The tenant may also apply to the courts for relief to alleviate the forfeiture of the property. The courts may then choose to give the tenant an additional amount of time to settle their affairs. In most cases, this is four weeks.

A landlord may also choose to invoke their right to distress under the Distress Act. This allows them to claim up to 12 months’ arrears prior to the distress application. This is followed by sending the tenant a notice of seizure of selected goods and a writ of distress to recover the unpaid rent. If the tenant does not reply within five days, the landlord may then sell off their goods.

In any case, consult a legal professional if you are not certain about your legal course of action.

Breaking lease equitably

Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, the status quo can change without warning. So, it’s important that the TA anticipates what may happen in the course of a lease.

Ultimately, it’s ideal for the landlord and tenant to be considerate towards each other. Open and honest communication is the key to coming to a reasonable settlement with fair outcomes for all involved, without things getting ugly.

If you found this article helpful, 99.co recommends Renting out a room? 9 landlord must-dos to avoid headaches and How to rent out a condo quickly in Singapore: a 7-step guide

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Reader Interactions

Comments

    • gkb2016

      You should make it tie to the employer. If the employer breaks contract then employee will break the lease but advance, agent fee will end up getting borne by employee along with return air ticket. Haze in Singapore is not employee problem.

    • Help

      I need help. We are PR’s, we signed a 2 year lease, then we signed an extension for another 2 years. We are 14 months into the 2 year extension. My husband is being transferred out of Singapore so we need to break our contract. We have given our landlady two months notice but she is legally insisting that we pay the full amount out of the existing contract. The extension of the contract has nothing written in it regarding breaking the contract. Do we have any rights?

      • lili

        hi
        how did you resolve this case ?
        My case is similar and would appreciate your reply soon.
        thank you

    • Moon

      As a landlord, can I give one month notice to terminate my tenant early?

    • Krristy Lam

      Hi Moon,

      That depends on what was set out in the tenancy agreement. Please refer to our latest article for more details:

      https://www.99.co/blog/singapore/breaking-rental-lease-early/

      As explained by the lawyer who wrote the article “unless the landlord had previously incorporated an early termination clause within the original tenancy agreement, it’s still within the legal rights of the tenant to reside in the property until the end of the lease.”

      We hope you get the issue sorted out.

      Cheers,
      Krristy

    • Ken

      Hi,

      House owner intended to terminate the tenancy only 4 months stay. 1 year contract. What can tenant request for compensation ?

    • Mona

      Hi! My tenant signed a 2 year contract on 24th Nov 2016. He informed us yesterday that he is leaving country in end Jan 2018 and to consider this his 2 month notice. He has said that he will not pay rent from now on and that we should balance it with the security deposit. When he came in last year we donated all the furniture as he wanted an empty house. Now he is leaving almost 10 months earlier, he is not giving rent for last month and not paying our agent fee pro-rata, has not given us complete 2 month notice and is overstaying a week too without paying. What are my rights as a landowner. I am afraid that if I ask him to pay for the above he may damage my house and go.
      Can police help me?

      Please advice.

    • Tenant and Landlord

      Tenancy agreements are written skewed in favor of landlord to assure them on sure income for full tenancy period. This is a malpractice propagated by Agencies. Any TA should be allowed to terminate after sufficient notice. A landlord who is making income from investment property has no moral right to extract income from a tenant for un-used period of tenancy as long as sufficient notice is given.

      • Simon

        I agree with this point of view, but it is legally enforceable?

    • one tenant

      Hi, just encounter this situation, one the other tenant is posted overseas for a long time(already nearly one year) and can this be considerred as diplomatic clause ? because i just realized that my current TA doesnt have the term to terminate after certain notice except for the diplomatic clause. As far as i am concerned, this can be applied as diplomatic clause.

      • Sasha

        Hi. First of all, thank you in advance if you can help me get clarity with regard to the below situation.

        I am a Singaporean who is renting a condo unit from a SPR. I signed a two year lease with the owner last Aug. Now the owner wants to sell her property. Does the tenancy agreement still hold or can I terminate the lease since the owner has express her wish to sell the property?

        The owner has been going back and fro about selling her property. She refused to provide a letter on her intent to sell her place. Please give me advice on how to deal with this situation.

        Thank you!

    • Jumbo

      As a tenant, I am encountering an unforeseen circumstance due to the job transfer by my employee. It caused to break my lease before the diplomatic clause period. I searched for a tenant with the agreement of landlord. I found a replacement. I agreed to reimburse the landlord with agent fee on a pro-rata basis. The landlord wants to return my deposit on the pro-rata basis.

      I would like to know if the landlord has right to refund security deposit on the pro-rata basis or he should return full deposit to us.

    • Kumar

      My owner asking me to pay balance tenancy period money using the clause written below. I have given two month notice period and any paid 3 months rental for the 6-month contract. Do I still need to pay the balance three months rental for him?

      If the rent hereby reserved or any part thereof shall be unpaid for seven (7) days after becoming payable (whether formally demanded or not) or if the Tenant shall at anytime fail or neglect to perform or observe any of the obligations, stipulations and agreements herein contained on his part to be performed or observed or if the Tenant or any other person in whom for the time being the tenancy be vested shall become bankrupt or enter into composition with the Tenant’s creditors or suffer any distress or execution to be levied on the Tenant’s goods or if the Tenant being a company shall go into liquidation whether voluntary (save for the purpose of amalgamation or reconstruction) or compulsory then and in any of the said cases it shall be lawful for the Landlord at any time thereafter to re-enter upon the premises by locking-up the main gate of the premises or any part thereof and thereupon this tenancy shall absolutely terminate but without prejudice to the right of action of the Landlord in respect of any antecedent breach of this Agreement by the Tenant. In this connection, the landlord reserves the right to claim the balance of lease outstanding from the tenant.

    • ever

      If the Tenancy Agreement is without stamping before it was signed, is it valid? Can the Landlord hold the deposit?

    • Terri

      My tenant is always late in payment. 10/11 months. Last 2 months he has not paid. Can i evict/ terminate the tenancy as per contractual 30 days? Left one month to end of lease. Shld i be bothered to terminate/ evict?

    • hardy

      I am a tenant, who stayed in a condo for 3 years and my lease is ending in 4 months time. I am told by employer to move overseas so I requested house owner to terminate agreement 2 months early but owner said they will take legal action. Can someone suggest what’s best possible option?

    • Kenneth

      Hi, what if a TA is signed with a private limited company and the company actually stop operation but yet to close or whatsoever, the contact person is unreachable and already sent them a notice before moved out their things in the space. As a landlord can go after the person who signed the TA at that point of time? Or the TA is actually bond with the company only.

    • Kelly

      Hi there,

      My tenancy agreement will end soon but we will leave Singapore for good. Can I extend the agreement for just 6 months? I somehow got the info that short term lease is illegal in Singapore. Kindly advise!

    • Ainur

      Hi

      My landlord refused to pay back deposit. According to tenancy agreement, i have to go through the arbitration which is costly based on following links:
      https://singaporelegaladvice.com/law-articles/arbitration-business-disputes-singapore
      http://www.siac.org.sg/component/siaccalculator/?Itemid=448

      Is there any clause on legislation, so I can bypass arbitration requirement stated in the tenancy agreement? if not, it should be eliminated on legislational level. Rather than Arbitration, mediation is more affordable for common people

    • Ed

      Hi,

      I would like to hear your or anybody’s opinion on a matter.

      I rented a room with a lease of 1 yr with no early termination clause stipulated in the contract.
      However within six months, the landlord evicts me stating they can do so. Provided that they give me a 1 month notice period.

      My question is do they have the right to evict me? Am I entitled to compensation if they do so?

    • Hi There , i am 2 months into a 12 month serviced office room lease . its a 1 pax room .
      i actually paid for the 3rd month but was unable to use due to the covid 19 situation .
      now i have vacated at the end of my 3rd month as i do not have any more money, no income nor savings . I heard the serviced office that i had used can be very nasty . i am prepared to forgo my 2 months security deposit and not persue the 3rd month’s rental which i had paid but not used . I understand i am liable to be sued for breach of contract . My question is does the context / circumstance imdemnify me from them coming to get more money from me . I am seriously poor and i have even printed out bank statments to show them . I have told them that i am insolvent . can you advise me what they would plan to do ?

    • As landlord of a muslim home, my tenant breach contract by drinking alcohol in the room. In contract stated no alcohol or non halal food in the house or before entering the house. How can terminate my tenant nicely?

    • Alvar

      Hi iv given my room for one year lease for my tanant but not even 3months he is giving my family trouble by drinking and get drunk so ask him to leave for my family safety must i return the deposit

    • KS

      I’m a tenant – viewing the flat by pictures during this period. i’ve moved in 3 days, really not happy with current environment and the agent never take good care of our request after getting her money. it’s a 2 years contract, can i ask for stopping the contract?

    • Hope

      Help needed

      My situation is very bad and need to seek for help- i view this apartment by pictures during the CB period, and we noticed some items are out of order when we moved in. we have informed the agent several times and till now more than 1 month, nothing been fixed (worse is the toilet is leaking). filed to CEA and the agent’s company, but kept saying it’s between myself and the landlord, and i cannot get contact with landlord. but it’s the agent’s issue …

      please let me know how can i end the TA, now like, no one can help me. Agent totally doesn’t care

    • Peter

      Please help!

      I already stayed enough 1 year to give my landlord 2 months early notice as definition inside the agreement.
      I gave the landlord the early notice in the middle of the month and hope that can take back the deposit in the middle of the next 2 months. But the Landlord doesn’t want to pro-rate my deposit for that and force me to stay until the end of the second month.

      Do I have the right to ask him pro-rate my deposit as I need to move out in the middle of the month?

    • Ms.Jiang

      If the monthly rental is paid from 1st till last day of the month, and tenant move on the last day. Should rental being charged to tenant for the day move out. I always confused on this, as if stay in hotel, is charged by night. Come to house rental, how to calculate?

      • Yes, the rental is charged till the last day of the rental, as stated on the tenancy agreement. It is also when the tenant should move out by, if they don’t renew the contract. Rentals are calculated per month, with a minimum of 3 months for private properties and 6 months for HDB.

    • Ms K

      My tenant (Miss A) just moved in (it’s a 2 year contract). During viewing, she saw the existing furniture. Her signed LOI did not list down any requirements either. I had also provided the inventory list together with the TA to sign, 2 weeks before handover date (which she signed on, 2 weeks before handover date). During viewing and the subsequent days following the viewing, she stated a few times, that she has no requests – no need to remove any furniture, no need for me to provide any furniture. She only has her dog with her (which I’m ok with). Now that she has moved in, she is asking me to remove some pieces of furniture. Pieces that were present in the apartment during her viewing. I had another offer for higher rental but person wanted some furniture removed, and I turned that down to take Miss A as my tenant because she stated she does not need any furniture removed. (I prefer to keep all the furniture.) Is this misrepresentation? I signed the TA with her mainly because she said she is ok to have all the furniture. Can I rescind the contract?

      Oh, and just before she signed the TA (16 days after she viewed the unit), she suddenly informed that “she had forgotten to mention that she also has a cat with her”. She mentioned having a dog many times, but during those times, she forgot she has a cat too.

    • Daniel

      i am a landlord and less than 1 yr into the 2-yr TA with my tenant. I am now thinking of Early Terminating the TA and keep the property for other usage. What’s the cost i have to pay? Appreciate it if you could advise. Many thanks.

    • JTeng

      In view of rental hikes here, can LL ask for 60-70percent increase? Is there a regulation on this?? Many are facing such, hikes are 40to 70 per cent and above, and many are in a dilemma. Your advise.Thank you

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