More tenants for flat owner than he bargained for

For months, he thought he was renting his four-room Housing Board (HDB) flat in Tampines to six people. But the home owner was shocked to learn much later that there could have been 14 people living in the flat instead.

The owner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chia, 49, said that in March, he had engaged a housing agent to rent out his flat to a 33-year-old man for $2,400 a month. He claimed that the man told him that five others would be co-renting the flat.

"I wasn't sure about the backgrounds of the other tenants or what they did for a living, but they paid the monthly rent on time, so I didn't ask more," said Mr Chia, who is a building contractor.

Earlier this month, he wanted to make arrangements to sell the flat, Shin Min Daily News reported yesterday.

When he went to check the flat's condition on Dec 14, the contractor was shocked to find that it contained many beds.

Mr Chia said there were five single beds in the master bedroom, with three single beds and three double-decker beds in two other rooms.

He believes that there could have been 14 tenants and the main tenant took on the role of a secondary landlord.

"My home used to be very clean. Now, it has become dirty. Even the ceiling fan is spoilt," he said.

Mr Chia added that the tenant removed the flat's original gas stove and installed a new one. The kitchen and fridge had an unpleasant smell too.

After the discovery on Dec 14, Mr Chia ordered the man and the other tenants to move out within three days, and forfeited a month's worth of deposit under the rental agreement. They have all since left.

When Shin Min contacted the main tenant, he denied that he was a secondary landlord and said: "If there were really more tenants than allowed, sue me."

The man acknowledged the tenancy agreement stated the flat would be rented to six people, but he claimed that there was later just one other countryman in the unit.

According to HDB rules, a maximum of only four people can rent a one- or two-room flat; six people a three-room flat; and nine people four-room or larger flats.

Lawyer Lee Ah Fong said if a tenant sublets a home and the owner can prove that he did not know about this, the owner would not get into trouble.

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