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Common Tricks by Unscrupulous Landlords for Residential Properties

1. Renting a place in a city like Singapore is common, both for foreigners (who do not own a place here) and locals (who need their own space) alike. In most situations, tenants just want a quiet and peaceful dwelling, and landlords just want to earn income from rental. Should be fuss free right? Well, unfortunately not all the time, even on the assumption that you are a well-behaved tenant who pays rent on time.

2. Here, I share some “tactics” that some landlords use. These come from real-life experiences, both personally from when I used to rent accommodation, and from my clients.

2.1 Tactic 1: So you are in the process of handing over the place at the end of your tenancy. Usually, this should be a mere formality. Out of nowhere, the landlord / agent points to “damage”, which is actually just wear-and-tear or even pre-existing conditions. Stunned, you can barely react, until the landlord / agent reveals their end-game – they threaten to deduct your security deposit. Most tenants will try to “negotiate” a ‘lesser’ deduction, just out of convenience. Tip: Take photos at the beginning of your tenancy, and at the end of the tenancy. If the landlord / agent refuses to return your deposit, be prepared to pursue legal action, as well as non-legal (not ‘illegal’) action such as leaving reviews on property portals, making a complaint to Council of Estate Agents (CEA), etc.

2.2 Tactic 2: Not including a termination clause in the tenancy agreement (“TA”). Reasons for this omission may vary. If you need to terminate your lease before the TA period is up (*common for foreigners who may be relocated earlier than expected), some landlords may insist that you pay for the remainder of the full TA term. News flash, it’s not so easy for landlords to make this claim. Again, their end-game is to pressure you to relinquish your security deposit so that they earn a “bonus” as they get a new tenant to replace you. Tip: If you foresee the possibility of having to end the TA early, try to negotiate for “Diplomatic Clause” or a “Minimum Term Clause”, which would usually stipulate a fair ‘compensation’ in the event the TA is terminated early.

2.3 Tactic 3: Generally picking on random stuff like how many times you go to the toilet, the timing that you come back home, or other individual habits such as the kind of food you eat. You know, things that do not disturb the peace and is not the landlord’s business. The landlord may want to terminate the TA early to get a new tenant who may be willing to pay a higher rent, or may be trying to “swindle” you of your security deposit, or may just be a control freak. Either way, the landlord creates a very unconducive environment for you to live in. Tip: Ideally, best not to stay with a landlord. If caught in such a situation, it is best to look for a new place ASAP. If possible, move into your new place before the next month’s rent is due. Once you have safely moved out, give your landlord “notice” of termination. Hopefully the amount of security deposit is limited to the length of notice you give. Either way, the costs of staying on in hostile territory far outweighs any short-term expenses incurred in securing a speedy exfiltration.

3. In most cases involving unscrupulous landlords, such actions stem from “greed” and/or wanting to assert “power”. As a matter of perspective, the landlord’s leverage is worth as much as the amount of security deposit they have. Once you are able to neutralize this leverage (e.g. see Tip at 2.3 above), you put yourself in a position of strength. Another Tip is to try not to give too much as a security deposit [*Note: 1 month for HDB rooms / flats and even some Condos, or 2 months for Condos. If the landlords ask for anything more, the place you are renting better be in a prime district]. I have personally helped clients neutralize such landlords in this matter. Surprisingly, when we demanded the return of the security deposit, such landlords did as demanded. Most likely because we called such landlords’ bluff – i.e. they assumed my clients were “scared” and did not dare to push back.

4. Please note that these “Tips” make certain assumptions on parties’ general interests (which may not apply to you) and may only be effective with other concurrent and coordinated action. When considering a suitable plan of action, it is important that you yourself do not end up retaliating in a way that can get you into trouble legally. For example, giving a review on a public platform that crosses the line into defamation. That is why, it is important to get proper legal advice.

5. At JinHuang Legal LLC, our advice in such situations is aimed at helping you come up with a cost-effective “exit plan”. The aim is to put you in a position of strength, limiting any potential losses to you, as well as putting pressure on such unscrupulous landlords to comply with their legal obligations to you.

6. Need any assistance or have any questions on this topic? Get in touch with me on my direct line at +65 94763230 (call / What’s App / text) or e-mail me at

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