Should You Rent Out A Room In Your HDB Flat Or Condo? 8 Things To Know & Real Experiences From Singapore Landlords

23 February 2024 | BY

For those of us fortunate enough to have a spare room or two in our homes, renting them out may appear to be increasingly appealing.

renting room

With the cost of living seeming to rise by the day, it can feel like we’ll soon need to sell an arm and a leg just to keep up. For those of us fortunate enough to have a spare room or two in our homes, renting them out may appear to be increasingly appealing. In these trying times, a little extra income is undoubtedly welcome.

The decision to rent out a spare room involves weighing the benefits of extra income against the potential discomfort of sharing your living space with someone you don’t know.

What are the legal requirements around renting out a room?

Before diving into the whole process of listing your flat, it’s first important to find out whether or not you can legally rent out your room. Here are some of the criteria around renting eligibility and restrictions depending on whether your home is an HDB or a condo.

HDB Flats Condominiums
Verify Eligibility and Regulations
  • Must be Singapore citizen, PR. or on a valid pass with 6 months validity.
    • Only applicable for 3-room flats and above
    • Before you start renting out the room, make sure to get the green light from HDB.
  • Adhere to HDB’s conditions on maximum number of occupants and Non-Citizen Quota.
  • Minimum rental period of 6 months and maximum rental period of 36 months.
  • Minimum rental period of 3 months
  • Properties under 90sqm have a maximum occupancy limit of 6 unrelated individuals. 
Secure Necessary Approvals
  • Obtain approval from HDB through the HDB website.
  • Inform MCST of your intention to let out a room and ensure compliance with

What should I know about renting out an HDB or condo room?

Here are 8 things to know if you’re planning on making extra income from renting out a room in your HDB or condo, based on real experiences from Singapore landlords.

  • Always interview  and pre-screen prospective tenants before renting

The most intuitive tip is to always interview prospective tenants before making any rental decisions. You want to know what, or in this case who you’re dealing with. 

Pre-screening is like the first step in deciding if someone’s a good fit to rent your place. Think of it like swiping on a dating app. Before you go on a date (or in this case, spend time showing them the place and chatting more deeply), you want to know the basics. Can they afford the rent? Do they have a stable job?

It’s important because it saves you a ton of time. Instead of showing your place to everyone who’s interested, you only show it to folks who’ve already passed the first check. Then comes the face-to-face interview. When you  meet someone IRL, you can pick up on a lot of things you can’t through texts or emails.

Think of it as a vibe check–after all, if you are going to have someone in your space 24/7, you’ll want to know that you can at the very least get along. It’s also a 2-way street. They get to see the place for themselves and ask any questions they might have.

  • Never trust a “friend of a friend”

Here’s a real horror story about renting. Two landlords, A and B, chose tenant C based on a friend’s recommendation, skipping further checks. Initially, C was charming, but soon, his behavior deteriorated.

“It took a while for the proverbial leopard to show its spots”. 

Over time, tenant C became anything but the perfect tenant. He repeatedly pushed social boundaries, putting the moves on the landlords’ lady friends on several occasions, helping himself to whatever he desired in the fridge, being tardy with the rent, and leaving clothes in the washer to the extent of causing mould that had to be dealt with professionally.

Worst of all, when confronted and told to move out, he responded violently, destroying property. He kicked holes in the drywall, smashed one of the shelves in his room, and then “raised a stink” about not getting his rental deposit back. The landlords never got the last month’s rent from him, but “considered it a fair write-off, all things considered”.

The lesson here? Never trust a friend of a friend. Rely on your own intuition to feel things out before committing to renting.

  • Always ask for a deposit upfront

In Singapore, asking for a deposit when you rent out a place isn’t a must-do by law, but it’s pretty standard. It’s more about an agreement between the landlord and the tenant. Usually, this deposit is like a safety net for you—it covers any potential damages or unpaid rent. It’s often about one to two months’ rent, depending on what you decide.

While you’re establishing the terms of the lease, you’ll also want to ask for a deposit upfront. Deposits are an act of good faith on the part of both parties – they act as a guarantee of good behaviour on the part of the tenant, as they are incentivised to adhere to the terms of the lease in order to recover their deposit come time to move out. 

“Always always get a deposit. I’ve done without it twice and both times got badly screwed over.” – Alternative_Year_340

  • Have rental terms established in a written contract

It might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often people overlook the importance of clearly defining rental terms in writing. As a landlord, you have the authority to set the initial terms, but the final agreement often results from discussions with the tenant. This might involve accepting their terms or finding a middle ground for mutual benefit.

The merit of having terms laid out clearly cannot be understated – It precisely records the rent amount, payment intervals, security deposit, and any conditions for refund, ensuring financial terms are transparent.

A written agreement also provides a legal framework that clearly outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties, minimising the risk of misunderstandings and disputes.

Here are some things to put into your tenancy agreement: 

  • Names and contact details of the landlord and tenant(s).
  • Property description: Address and specific description of the rental property.
  • Rental term: start and end dates of the tenancy.
  • Amount of rent, payment frequency, and payment method.
  • Security deposit: actual amount, conditions for deduction, and return procedures.
  • Maintenance and repairs: the split of responsibilities between the landlord and tenant.
  • Utility payments: which party is responsible for utilities and how they are to be paid.
  • Regulations regarding noise, guests, smoking, pets, etc.
  • Conditions under which the tenant may or may not sublet.
  • Pet policy
  • Notice period and conditions for early termination.
  • Options or conditions for renewing the tenancy.
  • Procedures for handling disputes or disagreements.
  • Legal signatures of both the landlord and tenant(s).
  • Set cleanliness expectations from the start

Sharing a space with someone new can often lead to disagreements, and unsurprisingly, cleanliness tops the list of common issues. It’s understandable; no one enjoys returning to a dirty, smelly home. A Reddit user shared that one of the tenants he lived with had especially poor hygiene habits which caused terrible odours in the home.

He barely ever took showers or cleaned his room. Worse, he did not allow anyone else to clean his room, even though the rent came with weekly cleaning services included. In addition, he ordered “ tons of food delivery every day”, yet never took the trash out, save for once every fortnight or so.

These practices led to highly unsanitary living conditions, compelling the Reddit user to frequently use the air conditioning or open windows and doors to lessen the odor, particularly in the shared bathroom affected by the plumbing. The situation deteriorated to the extent that it caused physical illness. “It got so bad to the point I puked multiple times”.

This story highlights how different people’s standards of cleanliness can be and underscores the importance of setting clear expectations about hygiene and cleanliness right from the start when sharing a space. 

  • Have regular check-ins with your tenant

Above all else, the key to a positive rental experience is to ensure that all parties are content. In addition to establishing expectations from the start, having rental terms outlined in black and white, and holding onto a deposit just in case anything goes wrong, a good way to make sure everyone is on the same page in between is to have regular check-ins. 

This allows for open lines of communication and offers both parties an opportunity to share any grievances as they arise so that solutions can be implemented promptly instead of allowing things to boil over and get bad. When expectations are aligned, relations remain friendly.

  • Hire an agent 

Lastly, first-time landlords may want to look into hiring an agent. It’s not a must, but does come highly recommended. While they don’t come cheap, typically costing a month’s worth of rent for a two-year lease, they do tend to be worth it. 

“For that commission paid. There are many things a good agent will do for you besides sourcing for tenants, like drafting a well-written tenancy agreement.” – LeftCarpet3520

In addition to handling all of the pesky paperwork, they act as an intermediary between Landlords and tenants, stepping in to mediate any disputes that may arise over the course of the tenancy and facilitating communication in the interim.

What to know about renting out a room in Singapore?

So, there you go–8 essential insights for renting out a room in your HDB or condo, directly from Singapore landlords who’ve been through it. While the idea of renting to someone you don’t know might seem daunting, these pointers show it doesn’t have to be, if approached correctly.

Landlords have several strategies at their disposal to safeguard their interests, and there’s plenty more that can be done to make sure the rental experience is beneficial for everyone involved. In the end, the most critical aspect is to establish clear expectations right from the beginning and to stay committed to those standards throughout.

When can you evict a tenant?

You might also wonder, what can I do to save myself from a rental situation that goes south? In Singapore, a landlord can evict a tenant mainly if they don’t pay rent on time, break any rules of the rental agreement, the lease runs out, or if the tenant uses the place for illegal stuff. 

Just remember that you have to give the tenant a heads-up with a written notice, explaining why and when they need to move out. 

Do I need to return the rental deposit?

Whether it’s a 1- or 2-month rental deposit that your tenant has paid for upfront, you are entitled to withhold the rental deposit under the following conditions: 

  •  If the tenant leaves without paying their last month’s rent or owes rent for previous months.
  • Costs for repairing damages to the property caused by the tenant that go beyond normal wear and tear.
  • If the tenant hasn’t paid utility bills or other charges they’re responsible for under the tenancy agreement.
  • If the property requires excessive cleaning or specific treatments (like pest control) because the tenant did not maintain it well.
  • If the tenant loses or damages items that were part of the furnished property.

It’s good practice to document everything from the start and be clear about what the deductions are for as agreed upon in the contract.

Who pays the Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) in an HDB or maintenance fee in a condo?

It is usually the landlord’s responsibility to cover the Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) for the flat he or she is renting out. You might want to factor in a shared portion of the charges in the monthly rental so there’s no room for arguments. In the same vein, the maintenance fees of a condo unit are usually borne by the owner.

How should the utility bill be split when renting out your room?

Utilities and how to settle them are one of the biggest causes of contention in any landlord-tenant relationship, especially when one party evidently uses more resources than the other.

While most people agree on an equal split of the utility bill based on the number of occupants in the home, if there are disagreements, then make sure to have open and honest conversations about the disparity in electricity and water usage in the house.

If one roommate is really cranking up those utility numbers, it might be fair to tweak how you’re splitting the bills so it matches up with who’s using what.

Just be sure to update your tenancy agreement to reflect any changes in bill sharing.

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