7 Landlord Red Flags To Look Out For As Told By Tenants In SG To Avoid The Same Fate

19 July 2023 | BY

Whether you’re a seasoned renter or a newbie, let’s not cast a blind eye towards crazy landlord behaviour that raises red flags.

landlord red flags - cover image

Renting is hard in Singapore, and unless you’re one with a bottomless bank account, there’s almost no way that anyone can dispute that. As if the cost of renting isn’t already a big question mark in our heads, there are more obstacles we have to cross to get a good unit. Cue landlord drama.

Truth be told, there are many rental horror stories out there, with crazy landlords we’d surely want to avoid. But while it’s good to be aware of what can go wrong, we still shouldn’t be deterred from trying our hand at getting our own place, especially if that’s what we’ve always wanted.

So, here are 7 landlord red flags to keep an eye out for as you hunt for your next crib.

1. Renting from landlords who reside overseas

For people who’ve moved abroad, renting out their property here is almost a no-brainer. That said, having them as your landlords will be, more often than not, a huge inconvenience on your part.

To start, any interaction you have with your landlord would need to go through a local middleman agent. This means that any proceedings you wish to partake in will probably take a lot longer to be set in stone.

landlord red flags - leaky roofAccording to u/Rodneythekid on Reddit, her agent made shabby excuses that he’s too busy to fix their leaky roof, which soon flooded their unit.
Image credit: @homecaremanagers

Plus, let’s be real: since these agents don’t own the property, they are unlikely to have a high enough stake in its conditions; so if the roof is leaking, or the pipes can’t run, they probably won’t have the urgency to fix them in time for you. So, it’s best to stick to landlords who live within SG.

2. Landlords who don’t have maintenance clauses

Paying up your rental deposit to your landlord is bread and butter to renting. While it seems like a given that you’ll get it back after your lease, many landlords out there try hard to bend the rules so they can pocket the money.

Many excuses can arise; according to on Lemon8, a common one would be that the landlord needs to use the deposit to hire a cleaner, since the property is “damaged” and not up to its cleaning standards. This slightly contradicts what is seen in typical leases, where normal wear and tear is allowed in the unit.

To get around this, it’s important to have a room maintenance clause drawn up in your lease. Plus, taking photos and videos of your unit on the first day of moving in will help you justify that nothing went south in the unit during your stay.

If all else fails, there’s still one last resort which is to report your landlord to the Small Claims Tribunal – though it’s best to avoid as it can make things real ugly.

3. Landlords who are overly friendly

While having a friendly landlord tends to be a big plus, you still have to draw the line somewhere. You wouldn’t want your landlord to get too close with you, until you get swooped into their personal issues.

As once more shared by on Lemon8, she was instructed to pay her rent to her landlord’s wife for several months. It was only after then that she realised that it was because her landlord was going through a divorce and – brace yourselves – he had not received a single cent of the rental payment.

Luckily, she didn’t have to pay twice to her landlord himself. Still, one key habit to follow is that you should only pay your rent to the name provided in the tenancy agreement. Or, better still, learn how to intuit on potential landlords who will respect both yours and their own personal boundaries.

4. Issues in the property are being downplayed

landlord red flags - house exteriorFor illustration purposes only.

Like all things in life, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” house. While it’s reasonable to expect some defects here and there in the unit, the least you’d want to know is the full extent of these defects – and certainly not to be conned into downplaying them.

When viewing a unit for the first time, keep a close ear when the landlords are explaining the different parts of the place. Having a healthy amount of scepticism is ideal, and don’t hold back whenever you’re asking about potential issues in the unit and how to manage them.

5. There’s no concrete damage checklist

landlord red flags - defect checklistImage credit: TheSmartLocal

Once all possible defects in the unit are identified, it’s typical for them to be spelt out concretely in a damage checklist. This applies to everything from the walls and pipes, to appliances and furniture. And if that doesn’t exist, then it rings a bell for future issues.

A damage checklist is important so that you can justify that, should anything go awry, it’s not your fault and you shouldn’t be the one carrying the financial burdens. 

Plus, it’s important to buy insurance so you can get covered during emergencies, with fire insurance being the most crucial.

6. Landlord shows signs of discrimination

landlord red flags - keysImage credit: TheSmartLocal

Even when house-hunting, you gotta stay woke by looking out for landlords who display discriminatory attitudes to tenants. The truth is that racial profiling in the rental market is still very common; and even when you manage to sign a lease with them, you’ll most likely have a very problematic relationship in the future.

Beyond conducting your own vibe checks during viewings, what you can also do to sort out discriminatory landlords is to read up on their testimonials from past tenants.

7. Tenants can’t view the property before signing the lease

landlord red flags - property viewingFor illustration purposes only.
Image credit: TheSmartLocal

Ah, the biggest red flag of all. As ridiculous as this sounds, there are landlords out there who don’t schedule viewings to potential tenants until they sign their documents.

When you probe them, they’ll give shabby excuses, like there’s construction ongoing, or that there’s an old tenant still living inside. But as your best friend would say – if he wants to, he would – the same thing goes for renting. If a landlord has no interest in rescheduling a house visit, there’s only one thing you should be doing: leave.

Common landlord red flags in Singapore to look out for

Even though you technically don’t own the space that you’re residing in, that doesn’t mean you should be shortchanged by unruly landlords while renting. Everyone deserves a safe roof over their heads, one they can retreat to after a long day, and not deal with any landlord drama that can otherwise be avoided.

While the hunt for the ideal space is not going to be easy, know that once you’ve noted these landlord red flags, you’ll have a much simpler time sieving out the right unit for your lease.

For more tips on renting:

Cover image adapted from: @ourslowhouse, TheSmartLocal, @houseofthebbs

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