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Renting PropertyBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Singapore - Renting Property
If an employer includes accommodation as part of the relocation package, it is a valuable benefit indeed. The good news for everyone is that Singapore is a small country, with excellent transport links. You can get very jostled on public transport during the rush hour, and heavy traffic can double journey times, but nowhere will be more than an hour away between work and home. This gives you more freedom to consider different areas, unless you have young children and must consider the location of their schools.
The majority of the population live in Housing Development Board (HDB) flats, which are heavily subsidised by the Government. The blocks can be identified by their less stylish architecture, but they are very popular and oversubscribed. The government dictates the ratio of racial population resident in each block, which helps maintain the ethnic diversity in each community. When considering new tenants, preference is given to married couples and to Singaporean Citizens, so single people and foreigners rent in the private market unless they have access to the considerable resources required to purchase an apartment.
Estate Agents are not allowed to work on behalf of the landlord and tenant, as this is a conflict of interest. However, the amounts charged are led by the market. As a rough guide, the tenant pays their agent half a month’s rental for a one year lease, and one month’s rental for a two year lease. If the tenant has not used an Estate Agent, they do not have to pay this fee, though they may prefer to use the services for convenience and advice.
Apartments are not usually advertised as unfurnished. Instead, the term ‘partially furnished’ is used to denote an apartment which has basic kitchen and bathroom facilities, lighting and air conditioning, and a washing machine. ‘Fully furnished’ suggests there will be beds, a sofa and television, and other furniture that the space allows, such as a dining table with chairs. Each property lease will detail the furniture and fixtures included, which must be left present and in good condition at the end of the lease.
Be aware that there have been instances of fake postings on websites, by criminals who aim to cheat potential renters of their cash deposits. It is easy to check online whether an estate agency and a salesperson are listed on the Public Register of The Council for Estate Agents, which is a mandatory requirement before working as an estate agent.
When you have found an apartment you want to rent, it is usually a good idea to meet the landlord in person, and you can look up the property details in advance on the Singapore Land Authority Register. You must give the landlord a ‘Letter of Intent’ which officially confirms you wish to rent the property; if the landlord accepts your offer, they will sign the letter. The lettings agency will normally take the process from there, preparing a Tenancy Agreement.
When signing a Tenancy Agreement, look at the contract carefully, as this will be the document relied upon in the event of any legal dispute with the landlord. New tenants will usually be asked for a deposit of at least one month’s rent for every year that the lease covers, which will be returned without interest at the end of the lease and after the landlord is satisfied the apartment has been left in a suitable condition. The rent will also be paid one month in advance, with the first payment made at the time of signing the contract. Never, ever make these payments in cash.
The lease will normally last for one year. Some rental agreements allow the tenancy to be extended at the end of the year, following agreement between the landlord and tenant. If one of the parties decides to end the agreement, this can be done at any point in the lease, as long as the party making the decision pays the penalty set out in the contract.
If the Tenant wishes to have the Tenancy Agreement reviewed or amended, they will pay the legal fees. If they accept the document as provided, then there will be no legal fees incurred.
There is a Stamp Duty to be paid on all leases; 0.4% for leases under one year, 0.8% for leases of 1-3 years, and 1.6% for leases over 3 years. The tenant pays this to the agent, who then makes payment to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
If the landlord sells the apartment, the new owner will take on the existing terms of the lease. This means a change of ownership will not result in changes to the rent or legally agreed length of lease until the original period agreed has expired.
Tenants should ensure the rent is paid on time, as the landlord can initiate court action just 14 days after it is due. With court approval, the unpaid rent and the resulting legal costs can then be recovered by selling the contents of the apartment and from the ex-tenant. Landlords can alternatively work with resolution groups such as the Singapore Mediation Centre if they choose.
When a tenant moves into a property, they should take photos of all rooms and all fixtures and fittings. These same items should be photographed again at the end of the tenancy. Wear and tear is acceptable, but damage and loss by the tenant must be made good.
It is a tenant’s responsibility to arrange connection to all utilities, and it will be possible to do this on the phone in your choice of one of the four official languages. Many services can also be arranged online. A deposit for services is usually required.
The Singapore government has formally recognised the importance of environmental issues, but implementing change has yet to happen. So whilst littering is socially unacceptable and heavily fined, recycling facilities are difficult to find. This means tenants in a block of flats will put all the waste in one bin with no separation for glass, paper or metal.
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