When can I evict a tenant?
Eviction is often the most straight-forward option that provides the most certainty to landlords for the removal of errant tenants, thus preventing future breaches of tenancy.
There are a number of scenarios in which you (the landlord) may want to evict a tenant (i.e remove a tenant from your property/land).
However, the only scenario in which you can legally do so is when the tenant has breached their tenancy agreement.
The kinds of breaches which may most reasonably give rise to a need to evict include:
- Failure to pay rent or consistently paying rent late;
- Causing damage to property; and
- Conducting illegal activity which creates legal liability for a landlord, e.g. subletting to illegal immigrants.
If your tenant has committed one of the above breaches and you are looking to evict them, read on to learn how you can do so in Singapore.
The eviction process
To evict a tenant in Singapore, follow these steps:
- Send a written termination of tenancy notice to the tenant
- Obtain a court order to enforce a tenancy notice
- Apply for a writ of possession
- Evict the tenant
1. Send a written termination of tenancy notice to the tenant
The tenancy notice should explicitly state the breach of the tenancy for which the tenant is being evicted. If the breach is capable of remedy, the tenancy notice should state how the tenant can remedy the breach in order to continue the tenancy.
For non-payment of rent for example, the tenant can be required to pay the rent. For damage to property on the other hand, the tenancy notice can require the tenant can pay the repair/replacement cost of the damaged property.
The tenancy notice should also:
- Give notice of the number of days provided in the tenancy agreement for termination; and
- Inform the tenant that they are required to vacate the property by no later than the end of the notice period.
If this works and the tenant moves out, great. If not, having given the tenant every opportunity to comply with the terms of the tenancy agreement, you can now go to court to enforce it.
2. Obtain a court order to enforce the tenancy notice
To enforce the tenancy notice, you will first need to obtain a judgment in your favour. If the tenant owes you rent/damages of up to $20,000, you may be able to obtain this in the Small Claims Tribunals.
Otherwise, depending on the amount owed, you may need to file a claim in Magistrate’s Court or District Court. Check with your lawyer if in doubt.
3. Apply for a writ of possession
Once you have a court order requiring the tenant to pay you a certain sum, and assuming the tenant refuses to comply with that court order, you can then enforce the order by applying for a writ of possession.
A writ of possession will enable a Sheriff (an enforcement officer of the court) to take possession of items belonging to the tenant to recover the debt owed to you.
In the event of eviction for non-payment of rent (as opposed to any other reason for eviction), the court will give the tenant 4 weeks to pay all the rent owed. If the tenant fails to do so, the court will grant the application for the writ of possession.
For cases involving other reasons for eviction, the tenant is also entitled to apply to court to resist eviction. The court will then decide whether to grant the writ of possession.
If the court grants an application for a writ of possession, it will issue a Notice of Eviction to the tenant, informing him of the date and time to vacate the property/land. You will also be informed of this date and time via an appointment letter issued by the Sheriff.
4. Evict the tenant
On the date and time of eviction, you or an agent must be present at the property for the execution of the writ and eviction.
The Sheriff and/or a Bailiff (empowered by the Sheriff to execute court orders) will also attend and will enter the property by force, if necessary. You will need to pay an attendance fee for them to attend.
They will serve papers on the tenant, make an inventory of all the items in the property, seize those items to be sold to satisfy the tenant’s debt to you and evict the tenant from the premises.
Tenants who remain in the premises after the end of their tenancy can be charged double the rent without prior notice until they have vacated the property.
After the eviction
After successful eviction, the tenant is not allowed to re-enter the premises without your permission.
It is advisable to change the locks before leasing the property to a new tenant in case the tenant has made copies of the keys.
Alternatives to eviction
Eviction is a drastic option which you may wish to leave as a last resort if the tenant is otherwise reliable.
Nevertheless, if the tenant has stopped paying rent and continues to live in the property but you are not yet ready to deal with the hassle of finding a replacement tenant, an alternative is to apply for a writ of distress.
This is a court order for the tenant to pay you the rent and it allows you to have a bailiff seize the tenant’s possessions and keep them until he pays the rent, or sell them to cover the cost of the rent if he doesn’t. It also allows the tenancy to continue and for the tenant to continue living in the property.
For more information, please refer to our other article on applying for a writ of distress.
If you need legal advice on evicting a problematic tenant, please consult a lawyer.
This article was first published in SingaporeLegalAdvice.