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How to avoid "Dodgy" Landlords in Singapore

How to avoid "Dodgy" Landlords in Singapore

by Bryan Norman

Looking at the latest round of numbers, it appears as if more and more expats are becoming the victim of dodgy landlords, bogus lease agreements, deposits that simply disappear and a host of other rental issues that leave fresh arrivals swindled even before they have a chance to settle down in their newly adopted home.

Bryan Norman
Bryan Norman

In fact, Consumers Association of Singapore, CASE, a consumer advocate organisation there that keeps track of complaints logged by people that have been duped, found that in the October 2008 - March 2009 period foreigners lodged 32 out of the total of 365 complaints against realty agents. This constitutes a 23% increase from the 26 out of 516 complaints in the same period a year before.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Estate Agents in Singapore received five complaints from foreigners since last October. Perhaps tellingly, none of the agents involved was IEA registered. The most common complaints were overcharging and not honoring agreements made, especially when it came to returning deposits and advanced payments.

Another ruse you see here is the fake landlord. Recently, the Singapore Straits Times reported on a suspected fake landlord who claimed to be the owner of an apartment on 14 Scotts Road and was looking to rent out his unit. However, this address is actually the location of a shopping centre called Far East Plaza. After pressing him for more details, he hung up and never replied to the paper's inquiries again.

As expat populations grow, conmen like this are seemingly becoming ever more numerous and ever more brazen, targeting foreigners in particular who are looking to rent a property. New arrivals are especially easy targets because obviously they're not as clued in to the property industry as the local population or long-term expats.

Posing as condo owners, these conmen send potential tenants fake addresses and pictures of well-furnished homes to entice unsuspecting foreigners into transferring security deposits to them. When these tenant hopefuls request a meeting, the "landlord" simply claims to be overseas for business. Eventually, as in the case above, the tricksters are never heard from again.

The good news is that in the past few weeks several fake landlords have been tried and convicted for cheating. In addition, the Singapore government has introduced a bevvy of new laws aimed at discouraging dodgy agents and landlords from trying to swindle new expats.

Still, the lesson to be learned here is to always make sure that the landlord you're dealing with is indeed the owner of the property you're interested in. Better yet, enlist a realty agent with plenty of local knowledge to filter out the bad apples for you so you have one fewer potential headache to worry about.

Update January 2012: Recently, the Singapore authorities have started zeroing in on unscrupulous landlords. A sizable number of these con-men have in fact been found guilty of tricking tenants. In all cases, a jail term was meted out. As a result of this, it's safe to say that the incidence of rental fraud will most likely go down.

Readers can contact Bryan by:

email: bry@rentinginsingapore.com.sg
website: www.rentinginsingapore.com.sg
mobile: +65 90079345

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.