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Renting in Singapore

If you are planning on renting in Singapore, be it a room or a bungalow, you have to deal with a competitive housing market. Property is much coveted, and prices are high. On the upside, there’s no lack of resources as far as renting in Singapore is concerned. We will tell you all about the process.
The rental market in Singapore can be tough to navigate sometimes.
  • Always make sure to read contracts thoroughly and remember that you are perfectly entitled to ask landlords for proof that they are in fact allowed to let out their property.
  • As soon as you’ve found a property that you’re happy with, you send a letter of intent to the landlord, outlining the basic conditions of your contract.
  • Many landlords will want to see proof of your immigration status so make sure to have your passport and visa handy.

Where to Start Your Search

Property website and real estate agencies abound in the city. If you don’t want to rely on Google alone, it is best to ask your future employer or other expatriates to recommend you a real estate agency. The Straits Times, Singapore’s major English newspaper, also provides a property market, in print as well as online.

Well-to-do expats who consider serviced apartments the easiest option for renting in Singapore should check out the Serviced Apartments Association Singapore. Conversely, expatriates on a budget will find that sharing a flat is cheaper than other ways of renting in Singapore. They could look into websites like Easy Roommate.

Setting Your Priorities Straight

Before you start your search for property available for renting in Singapore, read up on the usual types of accommodation for expats and the costs involved, as well as neighborhoods popular among expatriates. Moreover, don’t forget to draw up a list of your personal criteria for renting in Singapore.

The abovementioned list should include factors like your budget, desired facilities, furnishing, location, neighborhood, size and state of the property, and transport connections. This will help you with your decision when you view various properties yourselves or correspond with your estate agent.

The Letter of Intent

Once you have found a place for renting in Singapore that you’d like to turn into your new home, you had better move fast. Contact the real estate agency or the landlord immediately to express your interest. If the landlord considers you as a potential tenant, he will reply to discuss the conditions of your lease.

After talking about these issues, you need to write a so-called Letter of Intent to the landlord. It specifies the exact conditions for renting in Singapore, including the monthly rental price and the term of lease. Your personal signature on the letter indicates that you have reached a preliminary agreement with the landlord.

As a sign of your good faith, you pay a booking deposit. For a 12-month lease, this usually amounts to one month’s rent and for a 24-month lease, it is normally two month’s rent. However, do include an expiration date in your Letter of Intent. If the landlord hasn’t responded by then and signed the letter, you can get out of the agreement and get your deposit back.

The Tenancy Agreement

Let us assume that everything goes well and you receive the Letter of Intent from your landlord. Now it is time to sign the tenancy agreement. It is normally prepared by the landlord or his agent, but you should study it carefully. A standard tenancy agreement contains these specifications:

  • your contact details
  • the landlord’s contact details
  • the date when the monthly rent is due
  • penalties for late payment
  • mode of payment
  • the monthly rental fee (including or excluding utilities)
  • the amount of the security deposit (normally one or two months’ rent)
  • a property inventory
  • term of lease (generally 12-24 months)
  • termination clauses

All other conditions, like keeping pets or sub-letting a room, are subject to the landlord’s approval. You can find a model tenancy agreement for renting in Singapore via the Consumers Association of Singapore.

Rental Tips for Expatriates

Since you are an expat, the landlord will want to inspect your immigration papers before signing the agreement. Don’t forget to bring your passport, your visa, and your work permit. In turn, there are some things that expatriates renting in Singapore ought to watch out for.

HDBs – i.e. government-sponsored apartments – are first and foremost intended for Singaporean citizens with a lower income. For this reason, foreign residents cannot rent them directly from the Housing Development Board.

However, HDB housing is also available on the private market. Expats interested in renting in Singapore should check if the landlord is permitted to let the HDB in question. Ask to see the original letter of approval from the Housing Development Board and, if necessary, proof of ownership.

Costs of Renting in Singapore

When both parties are satisfied that everything is in order, they can sign the agreement for renting in Singapore. Now you have to pay the first month’s rent and the security deposit as specified in the contract, minus the booking deposit. The entire cost involved in finding a property for renting in Singapore can be broken down thus:

  • the booking deposit or good faith deposit (one month’s rent)
  • the security deposit (one or two months’ rent)
  • fees for the real estate agent (usually one or two months’ rent, depending on the term of lease)
  • stamp fee (between 0.4% and 1.6%, depending on the term of the lease)
  • an initial deposit for the utility company (SGD 80 – SGD 800, depending on size of property, type of property, and mode of payment)

You should have a financial cushion for your property search. When you calculate your monthly budget, you ought to ensure that you really include all costs associated with renting in Singapore. In addition to the rent itself, these may extend to bills for utilities, phone, Internet, and cable television.

Ending a Tenancy Agreement

Generally speaking, the standard term of lease in Singapore is 12 or 24 months. More often than not, it can be renewed upon expiration. If you are looking for short-term accommodation, a sub-let, a flat share, or a serviced apartment are probably better choices for renting in Singapore, though.

For rental properties, foreign residents frequently opt for tenancy agreements with a so-called expatriate clause or diplomatic clause. It allows you to get out of the contract early, after the first year, provided you stick to a specified notice period. If there is no expat clause or if you can’t fulfill its conditions, you may have to pay a penalty fee. This amount should also be listed in your contract for renting in Singapore. 


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Donald Moore

"I moved to Singapore to build up my own business. In fact, it was easier than expected. With InterNations I quickly got in touch with the lively expat community here."

Barbara Sciera

"Settling as an expat woman in a different culture is always hard. But with InterNations I got to know many other expat spouses that helped me."

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