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What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About the Paperwork Needed to Rent an Apartment in Singapore

Ready to rent an apartment in Singapore and feeling a little overwhelmed by the paperwork required? Hang in there, we have a step-by-step guide for you.

1. Prepare several copies of your paperwork

You’ll need these for your agent or realtor to prepare the necessary documents for renting:

  • Photocopied passport
  • Photocopied employment pass
  • One month’s rental for the “good-faith deposit”

2. Find a realtor

You just need one because most property companies share the same database of property listings in Singapore. If you approach many realtors at the same time, they may show you the same property. It also helps to have a list of “musts-haves” and “don’t cares”. If you need an open balcony and space of at least 800 sq foot, but don’t care about a swimming pool or an in-condo gym, say so up front. You can often check apartment sizes and specs online via websites before visiting with the realtor and before you even go see a place, ask them how many of the “must-have”s it has.

3. Decide whether you want it fully-furnished, partially-furnished or empty

Fully-furnished (F/Furn) means the apartment or house comes with all the furniture, white goods (like the refrigerator, washer and dryer) and all the essential electric appliances. Partially-furnished (P/Furn) means the apartment only comes with white goods, curtains, lighting and maybe some bigger furniture items like sofas. If a place is partially-furnished when you view it, you can ask the landlord to fully-furnish it – or ask them to remove furniture you don’t need. All these issues are negotiable, and they can affect your rental amount.

4. Decide on your budget

Look around on property websites (such as www.propertyguru.com.sgwww.stproperty.sg, www.99.co, www.fareast.com.sg and www.gumtree.sg) to get an idea of what you can get for your money, then set a monthly rent and stick to it. (Some realtors try to show you places that cost more than your monthly salary.) However, if you love a place that’s a little out of your price range, you can try polite negotiation. For example, if you’re prepared to sign a longer lease, they may also be prepared to lower the monthly rent a little.

5. The 3 most important documents you’ll be signing:

  • Your Letter of Intent

The Letter of Intent states your intention to rent the place, and your requirements to the landlord. If you need repairs done, or new fitments, add them to this Letter of Intent. After the landlord signs the Letter of Intent, he is legally obliged to provide what you asked for, like repairs needed to the apartment, or the fact that you asked for a new washing machine, or the extra sofas to be removed.

Note these clauses in your Letter of Intent:

– Diplomatic or Repatriate Clause 

This applies to tenancy agreements with tenure of over one year. If you are no longer employed or your workplace transfers you to another country, you can terminate the lease after 12 months, by giving two months notice. Your security deposit will be refunded to you. Most landlords will only include the diplomatic clause if the lease is more than a year. Be aware that in a standard Singapore Tenancy Agreement, there is usually the reimbursement clause together with the diplomatic clause – this states that if you use the diplomatic clause and break your lease, you’ll have to reimburse to the landlord part of the commission he paid to his agent. The amount is pro-rated depending on how long your tenancy still has to go.

– Good-faith Deposit or Booking Deposit 

This is usually one month’s rent. When you find a place you like, both you and the landlord sign a “Letter of Intent” – and you may be asked to pay a “good-faith” deposit. After he’s signed the “Letter of Intent” and taken this deposit he cannot rent the property to anyone else. But you don’t lose this deposit money – it becomes part of your Security Deposit after the Tenancy Agreement is signed, or you can negotiate for it to be deducted from your first month’s rent.

– Security Deposit 

The standard practice in Singapore is usually one month’s rent for every year of your lease. You only pay it after you sign the Tenancy Agreement. The landlord keeps this money and can use it at the end of your lease to pay for repairs to the property if you damage it, or costs and expenses arising from you breaking the lease. Assuming there are no costs, you get the full amount of the security deposit back (without interest) after you leave the apartment.

– Term of Lease 

In Singapore, the standard lease is more than one year, with or without an option to renew the lease. Most landlords won’t accept “short-term leases” for less than one year. After a year of renting a place, you can opt to renew a lease for another one to two years – but you need to give the landlord two or three months notice. At this time they may (or may not) decide the raise the rent, so you’ll have time to negotiate, or find another place if you decide to move out.

  • Tenancy Agreement

After the Letter of intent is signed the landlord prepares the Tenancy Agreement. You’ll pay any legal fees for this -they can range from nothing, to a few hundred dollars. You need to prepare the rest of the security deposit and advance rental now. For a one year lease – your security deposit will be one month’s deposit and one month’s advance rental. For a two year lease it’s two month’s deposit and one month’s advance rental. Minus any good-faith deposit you have paid when signing the Letter of Intent.

– Details about Utilities, Telephone and Cable Television bills

Installation charges (if any) and the monthly bills for these are usually the tenant’s responsibility, but you can sometimes negotiate to have some of these fixed bills to be included in your rental as part of a package. This can be handy if you travel a lot for work.

= SP Services – water and electricity supply
= Piped gas – also called “City gas” or “government gas” in Singapore, is available only in selected areas.
= Singapore Telecommunications – residential telephone line.
= Cable TV and broadband internet.

– Who Pays for Repairs and Maintenance 

You must maintain the apartment do minor repairs at your own cost. In a standard agreement, this means you pay for repairs up to $100 or $150.

Only major repairs and maintenance are the landlord’s responsibility provided the damage or malfunction of appliances is not caused by the tenant’s negligence. You will also be required to regularly service items such as air-conditioning, gardening, pest control or pool servicing – and may be required to keep receipts as proof.

– Check The Rent Amount is Accurate 

Sometimes the landlord will divide the rent into rent of premises, rent of furniture and fittings, and maintenance fees. Just make sure it adds up to the amount you agreed.

  • And finally…Stamp Duty 

In Singapore, Tenancy Agreements need to be stamped by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) – then they become legal and can be used as evidence in court for any disputes Stamp duty costs are usually paid by the tenant. To find out more about this cost, go here.

And there we have it!

By Tara Barker, January 2016, Updated 30 April 2019

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