NUS, NTU students renting out their rooms illegally

She is a first-year National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate on a scholarship. And she is profiting from her sponsored $400-a-month on-campus hostel room at Prince George's Park by renting it out.

Budding entrepreneur or blatant profiteer? She is just one of many who are taking advantage of the campus "property crunch" in Singapore.

In July, the business student had advertised the availability of her residence for rent. This was done on HardwareZone online forums. Like many undergrads, she knows about the huge demand for hostel places.

Wanting to be known by her user name, Locoy242, she admitted that she doesn't need her hostel room as she lives nearby in Clementi.

The 21-year-old said: "This way, I have more pocket money to spend."

Three weeks ago, she received a call from someone who offered her $400 a month.

She told The New Paper she knew of several friends who also sublet their NUS halls and residences to others who need it more.

What she is doing is against university rules. But demand is so hot for hostel rooms that students often outbid each other to rent hostel rooms at their universities, with some willing to pay several hundred dollars a month to get the room of their choice.

Students say they know they risk eviction and fines. But they do it anyway because the universities do not bother monitoring such transactions.

Shortage of rooms

The shortage of hostel places has been a hot issue for some time.

In 2008, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) proposed a new triple-sharing room to cope with the demand for hostel places, but students were unhappy because of the cramped conditions.

NTU has since announced the construction of eight new halls by 2016 to ease the situation.

Meanwhile, students turn to online forums to find a room. More than 30 of such online posts appear on popular forums like BrightSparks, HardwareZone and SGForums.com.

Most of the posts involve NTU halls of residences.

Forum users who spoke to The New Paper blamed the shortage of hall places in their respective universities.

A user who wanted to be known as Gravitytogo said: "Staying on campus is essential for people living far away, so many apply for it every semester.

"There's a huge demand for a limited number of hall places."

NUS, NTU students renting out their rooms illegally

The second-year NTU undergraduate said he stays in Sengkang. He faces a 1½-hour trip to school every day.

"I know there are some who want to earn money out of this. I'm willing to pay up to $30 a month more, on top of the original rate of $200," he said.

To be assigned an on-campus room, undergraduates must submit their applications before the start of the semester.

Contributions to co-curricular activities (CCAs) and the availability of hostel places will be considered. Those who meet the criteria will be allocated a place.

A second-year NTU student who wanted to be known only as Jake said that means he has to take part in many CCAs to earn a spot.

He said: "It's ironic because I want to stay on-campus to save on travelling time, but in the end, I have to spend a lot more time on CCA commitments."

A member of a minor CCA will have to spend an average of four hours a week.

Those in managerial roles in these CCAs will have to spend more time, and might not even get a place in hall, he said.

"I'd rather just fork out the extra cash instead."

NUS, NTU students renting out their rooms illegally

Both NTU and NUS said the unauthorised trading of hall and residential places is against school policy.

Said a spokesman for NUS: "(We) take a serious view of such practices and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against students who breach housing rules and regulations."

NTU's chief housing and auxiliary services officer Jimmy Lee added that students risk eviction and fines if caught.

Others cry foul, saying that these "renters" are abusing the system for personal gain.

Not fair

Said Jake: "It's not fair at all to those who genuinely want a hall. They should not have applied if they never intended to stay in the first place."

He posted a request on the BrightSparks forum, stating that he needs a room as he has classes at 8.30am. He is willing to pay $50 more than the original monthly rate.

Rental fees at NTU are between $210 and $325 a month, depending on the hall and the type of room.

NUS, NTU students renting out their rooms illegally

Jake added that such activities were also possible because hall officials do not conduct regular checks on the residents.

"When I stayed in hall in my first year, they never came to check if I was the original occupant," the 21-year-old said.

"It's definitely possible for a squatter to stay in hall for a whole year without being found out."

Mr Lee said NTU hall authorities do check on their occupants.

He said: "Checks are carried out randomly or whenever complaints are received. Unauthorised tenants may be fined $40 a day for at least one week."

The proper procedure would be to withdraw from the residence so that another student can take his place, he added.

"I know there are some who want to earn money out of this. I'm willing to pay up to $30 a month more, on top of the original rate of $200." - A second-year NTU undergraduate who lives in Sengkang and has to take a 1½-hour trip to school every day.

NUS, NTU students renting out their rooms illegally

Hostel assignment schemes are meant to promote a rich campus life, said both universities.

To do this, NTU and NUS take students' CCA contributions into account when they apply to stay on campus.

NUS:

For applicants to halls and residences, local undergraduates with CCA commitments will be given priority.

Depending on their level of involvement in their CCAs, students will be assigned a guaranteed place in a hall of residence.

For first-year undergraduates, the school will take their previous CCA records into consideration.

The remaining applicants will ballot for the places still available.

Some hostel places are set aside for students in special academic programmes in both universities.

These students will be assigned to one of its residential colleges.

NUS, NTU students renting out their rooms illegally

NTU:

NTU adopts a similar policy, but assigns applicants with hall points instead.

Students will be given points based on the level of their involvement in their CCAs.

Travel times will also be taken into account and points are awarded based on the postal code of their home address.

The points will be tallied and hall places will go to those with the highest points.

Unsuccessful applicants are placed on a waiting list and will receive their places only if a vacancy opens up.

Freshmen and students in special academic programmes will be guaranteed a place in one of the halls.

ngjunsen@sph.com.sg

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NUS, NTU students renting out their rooms illegally