Tenancy agreements: Clauses you should know about when renting in Singapore

tenancy agreement - fair wear and tear clause, repair clause

The final step to renting a property in Singapore: Signing on the dotted line of the Tenancy Agreement. And the deal is sealed!

But a Tenancy Agreement isn’t like a terms and conditions document that nobody ever reads (#truth) – it’s important that you know what’s detailed in it, whether you’re a landlord or a tenant.

Or you might find yourself bound to a Birthday Cake Clause, like this landlord. Lol.

tenancy agreement unexpected clause - guide to renting in singapore
“Vanilla cake is not acceptable.” (Source)

A Tenancy Agreement conveys the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenant, protecting both parties.

Figuring out who to pay for repairs? Refer to the Tenancy Agreement. Want to terminate the lease? Refer to the Tenancy Agreement. Basically, got any questions? Refer to the Tenancy Agreement.

When browsing properties for rent on Carousell, you’ll find that some rental listings are put up by agents while others are put up by direct landlords themselves. The agent or the landlord are responsible for drafting the Tenancy Agreement, but as a tenant, it’s still important to know what should be included in it, and how it affects you.

Complete this checklist of clauses:

Clauses you should know about when renting in Singapore

1. Clause stating the tenant’s obligation to pay rent
2. Quiet Enjoyment Clause
3. Fair Wear and Tear Clause
4. Repair Clause
5. Forbidden Alterations Clause
6. En Bloc Clause
7. Diplomatic Clause
8. Option to Renew Clause
9. Right of Re-Entry Clause
10. Unenforceability and Severability Clause

1. Clause stating the tenant’s obligation to pay rent

Um, ok, this is obvious. But all the more we had to include this.

Most Tenancy Agreements give the tenant a grace period of 7 days for late payment of rent (but be nice, and pay on time).

After which, the landlord is legally permitted to impose a late interest charge of up to 12% annually, although this should still be indicated in the Tenancy Agreement.

The clause should also specify:

  • Whether utilities are included in the rent, and if they’re not, that the tenants are responsible for punctual payment directly to the utilities provider.
  • The lease period. In Singapore, the minimum lease period for HDB flats is 6 months and the maximum is 3 years for Singaporeans and Malaysians, or 2 years for non-Malaysian non-citizens. Condos have a minimum lease period of 3 months but no maximum, regardless of nationality.
  • Who pays the rental stamp duty. This is 0.4% of your total rent across your lease period, which is a reasonably small amount, but it’s still good practice to have this down in writing. This is usually bourne by the tenant.

2. Quiet Enjoyment Clause

Also known as an Exclusive Possession Clause, this clause in the Tenancy Agreement gives the tenant the exclusive right to occupy the room or unit they’re renting.

This means even the landlord or property agent isn’t allowed to enter the tenant’s space, even if it’s to help the tenant, for instance, conduct repairs.

They should first ask for permission, especially if a stranger will be entering the tenant’s space – for instance, to show the property to the next prospective tenants towards the end of the current lease.

3. Fair Wear and Tear Clause

This clause keeps the tenant responsible for maintaining the rented property in good condition.

That said, everyday wear and tear arising out of ordinary use of the home – a slightly saggy couch, faded wallpaper – is understandable and permissible.

If the damage was not because of wear and tear, but because of the tenant’s negligence or misuse, the landlord can retain a reasonable amount of the tenant’s security deposit as compensation.

The big question is: What counts as “fair wear and tear”, and what doesn’t?

A worn carpet? Doors that won’t close properly? That’s probably the greyest area of any rental agreement.

There’s really no definitive rule governing this; each situation should be considered in its own context by both landlord and tenant:

  • Length of tenancy: The longer the tenancy, the more wear and tear you should expect. A matted carpet can be considered as “wear and tear” if your tenants have stayed for 3 years, but if it’s been a mere 3 months… How did that even happen?
  • Number of occupants: A property occupied by just 1 tenant will look far less used as compared to one that’s occupied by a family with 3 kids, so take this into account.
  • The initial condition: Was the property brand new when the tenants first moved in, or was the oven already approaching the end of its lifespan by then?

Often, the Fair Wear and Tear Clause also requires upkeeping the property in a clean, tenantable state throughout the course of the lease – and not just when it’s handed back to the landlord at the end of the tenancy.

For instance, the clause may state that the tenant should keep the property “clear of any insects, termites, rodents, vermin or other pests of any kind whatsoever”, and if they fail to do so, “employ pest exterminations at the cost of the tenant”.

Some landlords might also request that the tenant “engage and pay for the services of an air-conditioning contractor for the maintennce and service of the air-conditioner(s) in the flat/ room”. How strictly this is enforced varies from landlord to landlord (for instance, some might request documentary proof of the servicing of the air conditioners). 

4. Repair Clause

Leaky taps aren’t going to fix themselves, and that’s where a Repair Clause would come in.

A Repair Clause will stipulate that the tenant will pay for repairs up to a certain amount – typically $150 to $300 – and the landlord will cover the remaining expenses above the limit.

When properly drafted, this clause protects tenants as much as it does landlords.

As a tenant, you get a peace of mind knowing that you won’t suddenly find yourself financially responsible for fixing the entire home.

If the landlord doesn’t respond within a reasonable period, you can engage home services to perform the repairs and submit a claim to the landlord for the expenses incurred.

Tip: Don’t go the petty route! Tenants aren’t allowed to withhold rent even if the landlord is unresponsive, as this would constitute a breach of the Tenancy Agreement.

On the flipside, when it’s stated that this clause doesn’t apply to unreasonable damage due to misuse, the landlord can protect themselves against forking out unnecessary expenses, and also prompt tenants to take good care of the rented property.

5. Forbidden Alterations Clause

Tenancy Agreements also usually assert that the tenant cannot make any alterations to the rented property without the landlord’s consent.

Ok, most sane tenants won’t try to knock down a wall, but be specific about the smaller but more common issues, like whether removing or installing wall hooks are allowed.

This also includes instances when a tenant might want to replace certain furniture items in the rented property, even if they’re paying for the replacement.

Changing the teeny tiny single bed to a double? Yes please, but do get the landlord’s written consent beforehand. 

6. En Bloc Clause

An En Bloc Clause gives the landlord the right to terminate the lease prematurely in the event that the development goes en bloc.

But if a rented property goes en bloc without such a clause in the Tenancy Agreement, the tenant can claim compensation for the unfulfilled period of the lease from the landlord.


Read more: What is “En Bloc Potential” (And Does Your House Have Any)? »

7. Diplomatic Clause

A Diplomatic Clause allows for the termination of the lease before it expires.

This is especially important for expats staying in Singapore for an indefinite length. Say for instance the expat tenant is transferred out of Singapore by his company and has a few months remaining on his lease.

With evidence of the transfer, the tenant can exercise the Diplomatic Clause by given sufficient notice to the landlord.

The notice period should also be specified in this clause; and if insufficient notice is given, the tenant must provide compensation to the landlord accordingly.

But not to worry! The Diplomatic Clause is often specified that this clause is to be exercisable by the tenant only, so you won’t find yourself suddenly being kicked out of your rented home; even if it doesn’t specify which party can exercise this clause, it may only be exercised by the tenant.

Note that this is only enforceable in leases lasting 12 months or longer.

8. Option to Renew Clause

With this clause included in the Tenancy Agreement, the tenant can basically request to extend their lease on the property.

This clause should also specify that the renewal of the lease will be on similar terms and conditions; with rental fees subjected to an increment capped at a certain percentage.

The tenant can make a written request to the landlord, typically 2-3 months before their lease expires, to exercise their Option to Renew.

Unless, of course, it’s a tenant from hell who’s constantly late on paying rent and getting complaints from neighbors – then, the landlord will have zero obligation to renew the lease. (The lesson here: Don’t be said tenant from hell.)

Tip: Moving out of your rented property? Try offering to help look for a new tenant to take over your lease, in exchange for, say, half a month’s rent off. Saves your landlord the trouble of looking for a new tenant, and saves you a good amount of money. Win-win!

9. Right of Re-Entry Clause

Speaking of tenant from hell, the Right of Re-Entry Clause allows the landlord to void the rental agreement and take back the property if the tenant has breached the terms of the agreement, such as by failing to pay rent.

Not a clause anyone should want to see being exercised.

You can also choose to include a term regarding termination. Either party may terminate the rental contract with written notice in advance (remember to specify the duration), with a compensation of, for instance, a month’s rent.

10. Unenforceability and Severability Clause

This states that if one portion of the Tenancy Agreement is found to be illegal and hence unenforceable, the rest of the agreement is still valid.

It’s often worded as such:

In the event that any or any part of the terms, conditions, covenants or provisions contained in this Agreement is held to be invalid, unlawful or unenforceable for any reason, such term, condition, covenant or provision shall to that extent be severed from this Agreement, and the remaining terms, conditions, covenants and provisions shall continue to be valid and enforceable to the fullest extent permitted by law.

 

Renting a property in Singapore

All in all, your Tenancy Agreement should look something like this!

Need more help? Check out our renting guides:

All of these clauses might sound like a lot, but at the end of the day, landlords don’t rent out their homes because they’re out to get you with loopholes in the Tenancy Agreement. So it’s really less scary than it seems! So now that you’re better-equipped, you’re all set to start searching for your new home. Yay!

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