Rent in Singapore is not cheap, but if you look hard enough and are willing to live far away from the city centre, you can find some decently-priced rooms in the under-$800 range.
Sure, you’ll have to share the apartment or HDB flat with a bunch of flatmates and possibly the landlord, but if it’s going to save you a couple hundred bucks a month, it’s worth it.
But before you sign that lease on the cheapest room you managed to find, know that there’s usually a reason if the landlord is willing to let you have it for cheap. And some of the rules landlords impose on their tenants border on the psychotic.
So beware of the following if a room for rent seems suspiciously cheap.
Are you allowed to use the kitchen?
If you’re renting a cheap room to save money, then you surely won’t be too pleased to move in only to find out that you’re not allowed to use the kitchen and are thus forced spend good money eating out at every meal.
Sure, hawker food is cheap, but try eating it at every meal and see what happens to your health.
So always ask the landlord if you will be allowed to use the kitchen whenever you want.
If the landlord will be living with you in the same HDB unit, and especially if it’s with his entire family, there’s a good chance you won’t be allowed to use the kitchen. Opt instead for a unit that’s being rented out in its entirety to a bunch of tenants.
What are the house rules?
Another problem with living with the landlord is that he might want to impose house rules that will make your life miserable.
For instance, a friend of mine used to rent a room in an HDB flat in which he was not allowed to use the common areas. The family with whom he was living expected him to lock himself in his room the moment he arrived at home so they wouldn’t be reminded of his existence.
It is also really common for tenants who live with their landlords to be banned from having visitors over. The above friend wasn’t even allowed to have his girlfriend step into the flat.
So always clarify house rules before you move in. And once again, if the rules seem too restrictive, opt to live in a share-flat where the landlord is not present.
Is the landlord renting the room out illegally?
There are many onerous restrictions on renting out property in Singapore. So don’t be surprised to find that many landlords are actually renting their rooms out illegally.
For instance, HDB flat owners are usually not allowed to rent out the entire flat in the first five years of owning it.
Private landlords are not allowed to rent out rooms or units for periods of less than 3 months, while HDB landlords need to rent their property out on leases of at least 6 months.
That means that all those listings on Airbnb are technically illegal, and some semester-long exchange students are renting their rooms under illegal contracts too.
Of course, the landlord isn’t going to tell you he’s renting out his property to you illegally. But just be aware that you risk finding yourself suddenly homeless if the authorities find out.
What are you expected to maintain on your own?
Some landlords try to heap on their tenants as much responsibility as possible for the maintenance of the property. So check exactly what you’re expected to repair at your own cost.
For instance, if you’re renting a room in a shared apartment or HDB flat, you’ll want to check if you will be responsible for maintaining your own air conditioning unit.
If that’s the case, don’t forget to have the unit inspected before you move in, and consider limiting your use of the machine, as these things aren’t cheap to fix.