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Educational article for new asiahomes.com realtors & expatriate tenants

How do I contact the Government Landlord?

"What's the telephone number of the Singapore Government Landlord?" Mr Jones asked me. He was keen on renting a black and white house with a big garden of around 8000 sq ft, just what he wanted for his young children to run around.  However, the incumbent Tenant, Mr Taylor who had agreed to discuss further the sale of the inventory on this bright Monday morning cancelled the meeting at the last minute.  

"My wife and I have decided to renew the lease," Mr Taylor told me. "Therefore, there was no need for us to meet."  I was shocked but thanked him.

Mr Jones was disappointed. He thought me that Mr Taylor would be favouring another party, probably his friend. We had spent at least one hour on a fine Sunday afternoon talking about this house and Mr Taylor did say his network of friends might be interested. The lease would only expire in three months.    

Mr Taylor had also thrown flyers around the estate to say that his house would be available for rent. A kind English woman, whose daughter had rented a black and white bungalow through me, had informed me of this vacancy when she read the flyer in the letter box. We went to see Mr Taylor who confirmed that he would definitely be moving out.

In Singapore, the Landlord of black and white houses is usually a Government-linked company. He rents the bungalows unfurnished and the Tenant has to buy his own swimming pool, air conditioners, water heaters and ceiling fans. He will then sell them to the next Tenant before handing over. The Landlord might be kind enough as to insist that the new Tenant buy over the items before he would be permitted to lease, if the Tenant failed to find a buyer.  

I showed this colonial house to Mr Jones as it was within his budget and specifications of being near the new Australian School and having a good-sized garden for his two young children.  His wife fell in love with the house immediately and that was important as Caucasian husbands generally defer to their wives' choice of housing.   

Now, Mr Taylor changed his mind. What should I advise Mr Jones?  I thought this case was an easy one since both parties were keen and Mr Jones would pay me the agent's commission since the Government Landlord does not pay any commission to agents. 

How should this case be handled so that Mr Jones would get the house at his price. If he contacted the Landlord, what would happen?

Firstly, the Landlord would know he was very keen and therefore would be tough on rental negotiations. I had no experience with this Landlord as I don't recommend black and white bungalows to Caucasian expatriates for the simple fact that I don't get any commission from the Landlord, an industry's practice. 

In this case, Mr Jones volunteered to pay me the commission of half a month's rent and this was kind of him. He was a man that had done a lot of research. He was already in Singapore for the past two years and could easily have found out the telephone number of the Landlord and dispense with the housing agent.  However, he contacted me to help him find a good house with a good sized garden at $7,000 and here, the timing was perfect. Only that Mr Taylor had cancelled the meeting. 

Secondly, the Landlord might open the house to all expatriates and there would be a bidding war. 

Thirdly, the incumbent Tenant would not be friendly towards Mr Jones should the Tenant change his mind. The incumbent Tenant had a lot of good tips about the black and white bungalow and the general situation and it would be best to have him on our side. 

"Let us wait for another two days." I said. "I will then phone Mr Taylor. Unless you want to pay a higher rent, like $8,000 for the house, it is best to be patient."  

Very few expatriates knew the existence of this nice house, except for those in the vicinity and the friends of the incumbent Tenant. The Landlord might know about the availability too but there was three months of lease remaining and would not want to antagonise the incumbent. It was easier to get the incumbent to renew the lease rather than find a new Tenant. 

Mr Jones asked me: "How about the houses at Mount Pleasant? I see a few vacant." 

I said: "The one-storey bungalows are renting around $10,000 - $12,000. The living area and the bedrooms are very small compared to this one you saw. High ceilings with two large bedrooms with two big balconies and an equally large family room on the second floor. Two servant's room and a big car garage. A large dining and living area downstairs with a big outdoor porch. It is extremely hard to find such a house.

In any case, I doubt the Landlord will rent Mount Pleasant for $7,000 as they are bungalows and are located in a very quiet and green jungle area away from the road noise. Some vacant units are not fit for occupation as the Landlord has not renovated them and you would have seen them vacant."

Mr Jones listened to my advice. He could have found out the telephone number of the Government Landlord easily. He was the 'get things done, solve the problem immediately' type. The type A personality character successful in this sales job at a multinational company which had retrenched thousands of staff world wide.

Mr Taylor phoned me on Wednesday and said: "Is your client serious about the house? I can see him today at 4 p.m or tomorrow."

I mobile-phoned Mr Jones and said: "Drop everything and go to see Mr Taylor with your wife at 4 p.m. Don't ask why he changed his mind. What he wanted was a good price for his inventory. He had prepared a list. 

The closure of this case hinged very much on the incumbent Tenant's mood. The $20,000 asked for the inventory was a large sum but the Tenant said he had receipts. We never asked for receipts to maintain the goodwill.  The pool and the wooden deck would be $9,000 and it was over 4 years old or maybe longer, as Mr Taylor bought the pool from the previous Tenant.

How should I advise Mr Jones about the second hand value of this pool? It would cost around $300 per month to rent a pool. We could tell Mr Taylor that we did not want his pool but only the house. Would that be wise? It was either pool and house or no deal.

Strictly speaking, I could have asked for the proof of purchase and amortise the pool and deck over five to ten years. It would not be $9,000.  Mr Taylor could say, "Get lost and go fly a kite!." and that would be the end of the deal.

This meeting was important for Mr Jones as there was no other house available in such a great location.  Money is always a sensitive subject. 

"How much would the pool company pay you if he took back the pool?" I asked Mr Taylor in the comfort of his beautiful and air conditioned 2nd floor lounge.  I must have an inspiration as we were deadlocked in negotiations over the $20,000 inventory costs. 

Mr Taylor was frank and said: "$4,000 - $5,000".  Caucasians are generally honest and we believed him. 

I suggested to Mr Jones to offer $5,500 and Mr Taylor wanted to think about the total package offer overnight and reply at 9 a.m. on Thursday.  He had Mr Taylor's mobile phone number and I thought they would negotiate directly. I did not want to pry.

Thursday came but there was no phone call from Mr Taylor. He had three months before expiry of the lease although he could move out one month earlier. However Mr Jones did not need the house till 2 weeks after the expiry of the lease.  Therefore, there was no advantage to the incumbent Tenant. Except that he had somebody to buy over his inventory at $12,400 and he might not find another expat able to pay this amount. Anything higher would be too much for Mr Jones too.

I phoned Mr Taylor and suggested that he made an appointment for us to meet the Landlord on Friday. He agreed. Mr Jones asked me the procedures and how to negotiate. I told him it was best not to talk too much and let me do the talking.

We offered $6,500 and tenancy to start on the date Mr Jones wanted. Mr Jones gave all of us a written letter of intent. I had advised that it would be cleaner to have a written offer rather than waste time talking. Time was of the essence.

The Landlord, represented by an experienced lady agent, said that the rent was $9,000 when Mr Taylor started renting and would not accept $6,500. "$7,000 was already too low," she said. 

In addition, she wanted the tenancy to commence 2 weeks earlier, allowing for four weeks of repair work and painting.

Mr Jones deferred further discussion to discuss the repair items.  

We kept quiet about the bad economic problems of the world as she would be aware of the impending Iraqi war by the U.S and the Bali bombing in Indonesia deepening the global recession. The less said the better in some types of negotiations as a wrong word might harden the Landlord's feeling toward the new Tenant. 

I asked for a $6,800 rental, saying that Mr Jones needed the savings in rental to maintain the garden and pool.  Besides he was not in Singapore if she wanted earlier commencement of tenancy and the house might be broken into."

"How about $6,900 payable 3 months in advance?" I threw in what I thought was a trump card. I might have sounded desperate instead as the Landlord was not interested in reducing the rent. "Some tenants do pay us quarterly in advance," she said, as  if this was not something new.

Mr and Mrs Taylor said nothing. Mr Jones was quiet too. The efficient office girls were busy typing and working hard as I heard the clicking of the keyboards. The Landlord was a tough lady. 

"Maybe you would want to refer to your senior manager?" I asked.

The Landlord suddenly proposed: "$7,000 and starting on the date Mr Jones wanted." It was all right with Mr Jones. 

The Landlord did not accept the requested 'diplomatic clause + 2 months' saying that the policy was a pre-termination clause after 12 months occupancy and 3 months' notice from either the Landlord or the Tenant. The diplomatic clause gave the Tenant an advantage to terminate the lease after 12 months plus 2 months notice.

"The security deposit should be 3 months, not two," the Landlord said as she struck out the '2' in the letter of intent. I knew that this request would be rejected but there was no harm trying.

"Let me have a photo copy of your employment pass, passport and a letter of employment." 

She was surprised when Mr Jones produced the documents as I had told him earlier to prepare such paperwork. 

"Write a good faith deposit cheque now," I asked Mr Jones. He was prepared like a good Boy Scout always is. The Landlord seemed pleased,
Now, Mr Jones only had to wait for the tenancy agreement and pay up all the monies and stamp fees.  Mr Taylor came to say good bye to us and handed his counter offer for his inventory.

'Would $500 be fair?" I asked him as he was asking $1,000 more. 

"Yes," Mr Taylor said. "On condition Mr Jones pay this week." He was quite happy, I believed. We shook hands and parted while he had to talk to the Landlord about a property he wanted to rent. 

Mr Jones must be the happiest husband in Singapore today as his wife would live in a house she fell in love with. He was a loving husband and had told me that his wife would be the decision maker during our tour of houses near the Australian School. 

This is an example of many cases where patience in negotiations such that all parties feel good at the end contributed a lot in closure. 

Ultimately, it was the kindness of an English lady who took the trouble to inform me of the availability of this house. 


from Asia USA Realty


Singapore colonial townhouses 2bdrm $2200, 3 & 4 bdrms from $3000
Rental: 2-4 bedroom colonial house from $2,200 for romantic, and young Caucasian expats who want to live Singapore British colonial history!  5-min taxi ride to Suntec City. 5-min walk to a subway to be completed at end 2002. 

Tel: +65 9668 6468, 6254 3326, 6254 2728, 9668 6469, 
9760 6466.  email judy@asiahomes.com now!

Asia USA Realty (Singapore) asiahomes.com 
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House Agent's Licence No. AD041-07306B

Blk 1002, Toa Payoh Lor 8, #01-1477,
Singapore 319074, Republic of Singapore

Mobile Tel: +65 9668 6468, 9668 6469 
Tel: +65 6254 3326, 6254 2728
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