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TIPS FOR first-time EXPATRIATE Tenants

Case 14. Sep 19, 97. Kittens/Pets in apartments. The English wife and the Canadian husband took a 4-week old stray kitten home. They said they would ask the Landlord's permission to keep the pet. I advise against this unless the tenancy agreement prohibits pets. It will be best for the kitten if you do not bring it to the attention of the Landlord. Cats are easy to keep and maintain unlike dogs. They do not need to go out to exercise if you have a small apartment and sterilise them.

However make sure the kitten does not scratch the furniture. Train it on a scratching wood or carpet as Caucasians and many Singporeans do not like to de-claw the kitten.

Case 13. Sep 18, 97. Indian Nationals to be more aware of the Singaporean culture. " I told you so! " said the Chinese landlady. She discovered that the first and second months’ rental were not credited to her bank although the Indian nationals had agreed to bank in electronically. She was reluctant to accept Indian nationals as Tenants but was persuaded by me to do so as both husband and wife (no children) hold responsible regional management positions in top US & global companies. The wife has an MBA from the US.

The husband apparently forgot to instruct the banker to effect electronic payments of rental as he travels frequently. The second month’s cheque was posted but might have been lost. 2 months’ rental cheques were collected by me personally and rushed to the Landlady’s residence. The couple apologised profusely. Part of the fault was mine. The tenancy commenced on July 26 and 4 days’ rental plus 2 months’ deposit were paid. The advance monthly rental was supposed to be paid on August 1 but was not paid. and should have had been collected before commencement.

New agents may learn from my case. Get the Tenant to issue August 1 cheque at same time as the 4 days’ rental. Alternatively, make rental payments on 26th of the month. Missed or delayed rental payments from personal leases or company leases happen. The Landlord must check the bank statements regularly.

Case 12. Aug 28, 97. Illegal Subletting & names of Tenants in the lease necessary - Some Asians, including Chinese and Indians have sublet the apartment to relatives or others to make money, hence many Singapore Landlords discriminate against Asians. Permission is required and many Landlords insist on names to be included in the lease agreement.

Case 11. Aug 28, 97. Multiple Tenants - The lawyers will always advise against rental to multiple tenants because it will be harder to evict and collect rental as well as to apportion responsibilities. In the Amberville Case, the lawyer for the Landlord understands the difficult rental market and comes out with a neat solution - the 3 Tenants to be jointly and severally responsible as one. In practice, the selection of quality multiple Tenants may be more important.

Case 10. Aug 20, 97. New Companies - Legal advice not to lease. The lawyers advised a Bayshore 2-bedroom apartment owner not to lease to this American Company which is setting up its representative office. Take established companies. Lawyers are cautious. My advice is to check the following:

  • The parent Company in America (detailed information in its web page).
  • Whether it has a branch office in other parts of the world (this client has one in Holland).
  • Will it close shop after one year after going through all trouble to hire top accountants and lawyers to set up a representative office? Probably not during first year of operation.

Case 9. Aug 13, 97. Time Wasted. Newcomers need to be aware that the Letter of Intent is subject to contract and that the Landlord may not honour the agreement. It will be too costly to sue him. If cable TV facilities are required, please get this in writing. Also, your employer usually gives you around 3 weeks to look for rental place. The working spouse usually does not have time. Do not wait till the last week.

Case 8. Jul 1, 97. Airlines Pilot’s indecision. This evening (Monday), the pilot would be back and will confirm his intention to lease a high floor 2-bedroom Melville apartment for $2,000/month. I advised $200 cash down as a consideration but he would take the risk of it being leased while he was flying from Friday to Monday.

Yesterday, a Chinese corporation paid the 2 months’ deposit and signed the lease for 2 years at $2,300 rent/month, commencing July 1, 1997. I had 5 other queries too. 2 -bedroom apartment with full condo facilities, renting at $2,000 are rarely available. Maybe on ground floors and near main roads. Tenants must be decisive if they have a good deal.

In this case, the tenant was offered:

  • high floor apartment (privacy and little traffic noise).
  • 1 year’s lease (most Landlords prefer 2).
  • personal lease (not corporate which is preferred by most Landlords)
  • to remove some furniture (Landlord dislike this shifting of furniture).
  • to commence 1 month later (Landlords prefer immediate occupancy).
  • below market rent (Landlords like higher rents).

This is too good to be true. It was offered to a Korean family at $2,200 on Wednesday, but there was indecision until the lease was signed by the Chinese corporation. Times may be bad for the Landlord but 2-bedrooms in Melville Park Condos are still in demand.

Case 7. May 8, 97. Tenants not to write critical notes. The American Tenant was unhappy with the slow response of the Landlord to repair some defects in the doors and listed what required to be done, adding the Regency Park apartment was "showing signs of age". This irritated the Landlord and caused more delays. Regency Park Apartments, being well located do not have problems getting Tenants.

Case 6. May 8, 97. Proper Taking & Handing Over in writing is important. I had a case in which the Tenant occupied the apartment 6 weeks after signing of lease and found more defects in the plumbing and kitchen table top. This was not checked by the agent when the Landlord’s electrician was around. It is best to list items in writing and once the inspection by the Tenant and Landlord is over, no further request for inspection will be entertained.

Case 5. Jun 13, 97. Pets are not allowed. A few Landlords disallow pets to stay in their properties. I have a case in which the all the wardrobe doors were scratched by the cat. Another case in which the New Zealand nurses had to hide the kitten whenever the Landlord comes. Landlords need not worry about pets because the Tenant is liable to pay for damage done. As many prospects, being Europeans and Americans will keep pets, it would not be wise to exclude pets. Your apartment will take a longer time to be let.

Case 4. Jun 13, 97. Singaporeans not allowed. One Landlord disallows Singaporeans to stay in his properties renting over $4,000/month because he knows from experience that the Tenants will use the place for vice. Singaporeans seldom rent apartments more than $3,000/month. There are always exceptions.

Case 3. Jun 13, 97. Indians are sometimes rejected. One Indian research fellow from the National University of Singapore told me that Landlords slammed down the phone when he stated his Indian nationality. This "racist" reaction is not common and has to do with the Landlord’s fear of the aroma and oils of Indian curry cooking permeating the whole apartment and furniture for months after end of tenancy, illegal subletting by Asians in general and bad personal experiences. It may be best for Indian prospect to work through an Agent who will qualify the Landlord.

Case 2. Jun 13, 97. Tenants do not pay commission to the realtor for private properties. The commission is 1 month’s rental for 2-year lease. However, the realtor has to refund pro-rata the commission to the Landlord if there is an early termination of lease such as the use of the diplomatic clause. The realtor may find a replacement tenant.

  • For Housing Development Board (HDB) apartments, the Tenant and/or the Landlord may have to pay the realtor.

Case 1. Jun 13, 97. Furnishing your 2-bedroom with upscale furniture and lightings. The Bayshore 2-bedroom was advertised at $3,500 fully furnished with furniture from top names of designers and upscale furniture shops. When my client agreed, the Landlord increased the price to $4,200 and we had to get out.

A better apartment with a balcony, panoramic view of the city and trees and partial sea view in Tower 2A was rented for $3,000 partially furnished. This American tenant was so thrilled to get this apartment at this price! He had given me instructions to offer $3,200 to get the apartment.

Some Landlords are not investment minded but the one who accepted the $3,000 rental was a Hongkonger who has several properties in Singapore and realise the importance of early and immediate occupancy to recoup investment. By the way, many Americans and Europeans love balconies although Singaporeans dislike them.

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