Singapore rental deposit return – 5 tried and tested ways to get your deposit back
- April 19, 2018
- 4 min read
One of the most commonly asked questions about rental in Singapore revolves around the rental deposit, and more specifically, how do you ensure that you get it back.
So is this really an issue here and how do i go about ensuring i get my rental deposit back?
Many tenants that come to Singapore can be too trusting in the landlord initially based on first impressions. We’ve all heard horror stories of unreasonable landlords withholding the rental deposits in other countries but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone new to Singapore imagining that happening here. So on the contrary, you will find that a search term like Singapore rental deposit return would rank rather high in Google searches. This Reddit post right here says it all.
Landlord will not return my deposit. What should I do? from r/singapore
Now that you are thoroughly acquainted with a typical Singapore rental deposit return (or rather lack of) story in Singapore, let’s look at a rental deposit and the terms behind it so you have a better understanding of what it entails.
Singapore rental deposit
A rental deposit is a refundable deposit that the tenant pays to the landlord before moving into the property. Simply speaking, as long as the terms set out in the tenancy agreement are abided by, the deposit should be returned without interest to the tenant at the end of the lease.
In most cases, landlords will ask for a month’s rent for every year of lease. However, it is not unheard of that some landlords ask for more than a month if they had prior bad experiences with tenants or if they are dealing with a foreigner with no track record. So in order to protect your rental deposit you have to know what can be deducted from the rental deposit first.
- Outstanding rent that is yet to be paid
- Unpaid utility bills
- Damage to the apartment in excess of normal wear and tear
- Cleaning costs
Singapore rental deposit return – Top 5 things to do
1. Before the tenancy agreement is even signed, please please be very thorough in reading through the contract and ask questions about any terms that you may be unsure about. We have seen cases of people just vaguely scanning through tenancy agreements. A lot of expats tend to have the assumption that Singapore is such a lawful abiding society that there would be no issues at the end but it is always a good practice to walk into a contract with both eyes wide open.
2. After you have made careful reading of the tenancy agreement and signed it, the next thing to take note of is the taking over of the property. Make sure that you have the inventory checklist done before you move in. Take lots of photos of everything (current condition and furniture), don’t be afraid to spam that shutter button here. Look out for any defects and issues and make sure that you save all this down somewhere. These things will come in handy in case of any dispute later on.
3. Be a responsible tenant. If you treat the property as if it is your own home, it will be a lot easier during the handover process at the end of the tenancy. It is better to keep the place in good shape than to scramble to sort the place out and clean it at the end of the day.
RentDiplomatic Clause Singapore: How does it work?by Sean
4. If you have not been very regular with your cleaning, what most people do here is to hire a professional cleaning service to do a proper cleaning at the end of the tenancy. Keep the invoice to show proof that you have done your due diligence and that the property is being returned in its original condition. You might be out of some money here, but it could be worth your time to ensure a fuss free handover of the property and your rental deposit.
5. Last but not least, sometimes in life you commit no mistakes and still lose. So if you have the misfortune of running into a crooked landlord despite doing all the right things, there is still always hope in the form of the Small Claims Tribunal. Do note that this only applies for cases with a lease that does not exceed two years, the value of the claim is less than $10,000 and the claim is made within a year of when the rental deposit was supposed to be returned. Typically in most tenancy agreements, the landlord will have 14 days to return the rental deposit to you so take note of the timeline.
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As always, feel free to leave a comment below or you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Hi Sean, your advise will be most appreciated if you can let me know whether the 1 month deposit can be confiscated when the tenant did not abide by the 2-year term Tenancy Agreement by giving notice of rental termination after staying for 4 months. No reason was given when the notice was given.
Hi, it depends on the contract e.g. do you have a diplomatic clause? In most cases, if the tenant breaks the contract before the lease is up, then the deposit can be used to offset loss of rent and your marketing costs.
During this circuit breaker period where no contractor/property agent is allowed to conduct non-essential work, how could we determine the cost of damages caused in order to offset a reasonable amount from the rental deposit?
Typically the period is 14 days, but in view of the lock down period, is it possible to allow this period to be extended as an exceptional case due to unforeseen circumstances? The reason for extension period is solely for the purpose that when the lock down period is lifted up and allowing contractor to attend to the site. And yes the said period falls within current CB extended period by government.
Is there an avenue to make the extension legitimate?
Hi Jannon, thanks for your question. Given the dire situation today, you should inform the other party immediately of your concerns. Any reasonable person would allow such a postponement. If this is not the case, you can bring the matter to the assessor (https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/covid19-relief/application-for-assessor) whose decision is final. All the best!
Hi Sean, I entered into a 2 year lease 4years ago. The last 2 years the landlord has been trying to sell and issued me with a 3month notice period so either party can terminate with 3 month notice period. The landlord never signed and returned that to me. A house has become available as will be taking over the friends lease yet need to move in 2 months time. What are my options as landlord never signed the 3 month contract and returned to me.
Can I just not pay the last 2 months rent and they can take it from my deposit or what the laws around that?
Hi Greg, thank you for your question. Just wanted to clarify – is a lease in effect at the moment? As your 2-year lease was signed 4 years ago, it seems that you’ve been staying without a tenancy agreement covering the existing period. If there is no existing lease, then wouldn’t there be no obligation to pay for rent? If there’s also no tenancy agreement, then was stamp duty paid for the existing lease? If no, then there is nothing you really need to do but leave since you’re not bound to any contract to make rental payments. If you have an active tenancy agreement (like an extension from the previous lease, or a new one) in effect, are there any clauses that state you can terminate the contract after x period of months into the agreement? If there isn’t, then you’d rightfully have to pay the remaining months unless there was a written agreement somewhere (like WhatsApp) stating that both parties agree to the 3-month notice. If it was issued to you but the landlord didn’t sign and return it, then it is not in effect and you should be paying the remaining months.
Hi Sean, thank you for the detailed reply. Just to clarify on your final line, should or shouldn’t
Hi Greg – should, because if the contract is still in effect and there’s no early termination clause (and the 3-month notice wasn’t signed), then technically you’ll need to fulfill the remaining months. Of course, you should ask your landlord for leeway. Some landlords would be understanding about it.
Hi Sean, my contract finished 2 years ago. I was given an extension letter which would be a 3 month notice to break at any time. Just on-going contract with 3 months notice. I have never received a signed copy back
I see, if you did sign the 3-month notice and gave it to the landlord, there’s evidence that you agreed to this arrangement, so this obligation has to be met. You can however, asking for an exception, or see if the landlord makes this request for the remaining months first.
Hi Sean.. My 2 year lease was extended by 1 more year which I understand makes SCT a no-go area. Pls advise what is the next best way to get my security deposit back – there have been irregular and malafide deductions which I can defend strongly. Thanks
Hi Rajneesh, sorry to hear that you have this problem with the landlord. Having an extension of 1 year doesn’t mean the SCT is a no-go. You can refer to the checklist at https://www.statecourts.gov.sg/cws/SmallClaims/Documents/SCT%20Tenancy%20Toolkit.pdf
If you no longer are able to find an amicable solution with your landlord, then this would be the best next course of action.
Hi Sean, if my landlord agreed via his agent whatsapp to allow me to break my lease early, but upon returning the keys, one week later decided to do a small claim tribunal of the remaining lease. What can I do?
Hi Sean, was it communicated in black and white on WhatsApp that the breaking of the lease would not incur any penalties? If so, this can be used as a counter argument.
Yes it was communicated by the landlord agent. Yet now the landlord back out and tried to file claim
I see. If you have this in black and white, it would not be an issue. If you do not, however, it would be tough. Either way, once you head for the Small Claims Tribunal, you’ll likely need to reach a compromise to close the case. I’m afraid there won’t be any other recourse unless you want to take further legal action, but it would not be worth it.
Hi Sean! We had just exited an apartment which we were staying for close to 6 years. Knowing that our landlord is the sneaky kind, we mad sure to hand back the apartment in very good condition to the point where he has resorted to charging us $80 for apparently scrubbing the stains off 3 WCs as well as for aircon remote controls that he had already accepted on the inventory list. We were not agreeable to these charges as we have pictures and proof to counter his claims. He has however stopped responding to our communication and still has our whole deposit (he is claiming about 3.8% of it). We will go to SCT but would like him to suffer some consequences too. Can we charge interest on the sum that is rightfully ours yet he is witholding? Thanks in advance.
I had the misfortune of the landlord claiming up to 2k for replacing stuff which we did not know it to be broken or spoilt. There was also no proof of the damages and invoices was just billed to us. We are at the mercy as deposit was held by them. I do agree that landlord should suffer some consequences too for claiming irresponsibly.