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Rental deposit problems

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tietotaito
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Rental deposit problems

Postby tietotaito » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 12:51 am

I thought to write my story to here to warn other people and possibly get some advices if someone knowns things better than me.

I had a short term condo room rental deal. The deal was made without an agent with a main tenant of the apartment. Beside of normal rent, the deal included one month rent as a deposit, which was agreed to be paid back to me when I move out from the place. The problem is that I never received my deposit back without any valid reason. Since I moved out about 4 months ago, the guy who owns me the deposit money has promised to return the deposit a few times, but nothing has been returned and currently he doesn't answer to my calls or messages anymore.

What has been done after moving out:
1. One month of waiting while sending messages to the main tenant to return the deposit --> nothing is returned
2. I contact another tenant who is staying in the apartment and telling him what has happened with my deposit. A while later the another tenant decides to not to pay his last month's rent and use his deposit money for the rent, because in other case he would also very likely to lose his deposit like me.
3. Filing a case to Singapore Small Claims Tributal https://app.subcourts.gov.sg/sct/index.aspx/ . The court process lasts about one month totally. The main tenant doesn't show up to the court and court says its my responsibility to make sure that he received the letter to come to the court. After a while I'm able to confirm that he received the letter and the court case continues. The main tenant doesn't still show up to the court, so the court decides that I'm right and orders the main tenant to return the deposit back to me in one month.
4. After a month the deposit is still not returned, so I go to an law company to apply for bailiffs section to sell assets of the guy who owns me the money.
5. After some time the court has accepted my request to use the bailiffs office to retrieve my money. After a lot of bureaucratic bouncing around the bailiffs office tells me that because the guy is only a main tenant of the apartment, they cannot use any enforcing actions to enter the apartment. So basically the guy would need to invite the bailiff in to the apartment so that something could be done. Because in practice this is nearly impossible and I would need to pay the bailiff's salary if this would be tried, I don't want to use money for visiting the condo gate and noticing that the guy doesn't invite us in.
6. I use law company's service to check the real owners of the apartment. I send a postcard to the real owners and request them to speak some sense to the main tenant --> nothing happens

I'm pretty much out of moves now so I probably have to cancel the court case soon and accept the situation. A while ago I discovered that according to Singapore law it is illegal to make short term leases. Therefore I could probably go to the police and make a report. However this option wouldn't return my money back and could possibly cause some problems to me as well, because I might have also break some law while making the short term deal.

What we can learn from this case:
- Always check that you make a rental deal with a real owner of the apartment. If the owner is not staying in the apartment, you also need to know the address where the owner is staying and also make sure that the owner also owns that place.
- If you make rental deal with a main tenant who doesn't own the place, the main tenant can decide to keep your deposit if he wants
- It doesn't really matter did you use agent with the lease. Usually the deposit doesn't go to the agent company, so an agent cannot do much if landlord decides to keep the deposit
- If you are moving out from Singapore in about less than 3 months after the rental contract expires, it doesn't matter at all do you make the deal with real or unreal owner because you won't have enough time to go to the court anyway


Any thoughts?

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x9200
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Postby x9200 » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 5:15 am

How about other assets of this scam? Money on bank accounts? His personal belongings he carries with him (money, mobile phone etc)? Lastly his salary being paid? Not sure how is this in Singapore but the bailiff can also get money from the sources I mentioned.

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Postby Beeroclock » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 11:30 am

thanks for sharing the experience. It's a bit deflating for those seeking justice, and reinforces the effort/persistence needed to get one's money back, if at all. There's often the comment/advice go to SCT, but this goes to show in practice how hard it is. Unfortunately, the person holding the cash is always in a very strong position.

Personally I was surprised about this point "The main tenant doesn't show up to the court and court says its my responsibility to make sure that he received the letter to come to the court." I would've thought that's the courts responsibility to summons the parties. Especially as you're in dispute, and the other party might not be willing to communicate or might be actively trying to evade.

I'm also wondering what are the implications for the other party of the SCT ruling against him? If it will adversely effect his credit status/history, or any other reputational damage. Usually this might be the main motivation for him to pay it out, but if he can escape without consequence and just turn a blind eye to the SCT ruling, then why not....

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Postby x9200 » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 12:29 pm

Very good questions. I wonder myself.
To expand a bit, we had a case where we sued one guy in SCT and we won but the amount of money in question was rather small so made no sense to engage a bailiff. The whole thing was obviously just to satisfy our principles. I was wondering at that time what we could do with this. For example, would publishing the court ruling with all the data of the defendant be allowed?

BTW, I don't recall we had to provide any proof of any letter delivery. The judge just said, we needed to wait 1 week or so for the defendant to respond.

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Postby tietotaito » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 1:05 pm

Thanks for the replies so far.

I was also surprised that it is my responsibility to make sure that the guy got the court letter, which was the case a few months ago. This can be very difficult to do if the guy decides to not to open a door and decides not to answer to calls/messages. It also can be dangerous since when the parties are already fighting in the court, the atmosphere can be pretty aggressive when the parties are required to meet without court presence. Luckily the guy made a mistake and sent me text message stating that he has received the court letter, so I didn't need to go to his apartment again.

About the bailiff office that is used with the small claims court, I got an impression that all they can do would to seize the assets from the apartment and eventually sell those if someone buys those for reasonable price. Therefore if the guy doesn't have some expensive assets, which nobody wants to offer good price, the assets wouldn't even be sold. Its also not possible to seize anything other than expensive stationary assets like clothes, AC machine, doors, windows...

Another option would be to go to civil court. Based on what I have heard, I think the civil court bailiff office can also do seizing the money from a bank account. However if I understood correctly, also in this case it would somehow be my responsibility to figure out what is the bank account number of the guy. Also in civil court it would be my (or my lawyer's) responsibility to make sure that the guy has received the letter to come to court. I guess, if the guy happens to move and you don't know the new address, there is absolutely nothing that can be done.

I tried to ask from bailiff office whether the bailiff actions would affect to the guy's credit status. Unfortunately I got an impression that there wouldn't be any affects to his credit related things.

The whole court things feel mainly just that its a mechanism to try to scare the other party to pay. The court doesn't really have much means to do anything if the defendant ignores the court. If the bailiff is used and the defendant happens to have some valuable things in the apartment that he doesn't want to sell, he can just decide to pay at the last moment without any punishment and try to get next person's money next time.

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Postby Beeroclock » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 1:08 pm

I know in Australia they have tenant databases, where property managers can report such matters, and especially if there is a court ruling against the person. This will make it very hard for the person to rent again, as most property managers use the same database for reference check before signing up a tenant. Often this creates the real and tangible motivation for the defaulting person to clear the matter. But this example only applies to tenants, doesn't help much if the landlord defaults.

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Postby Beeroclock » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 1:14 pm

tietotaito wrote:The whole court things feel mainly just that its a mechanism to try to scare the other party to pay. The court doesn't really have much means to do anything if the defendant ignores the court.
This is a shame if SCT becomes a toothless tiger.... The whole intent for small claims is the process should not be too legalized/cumbersome, otherwise it defeats the purpose if the costs involved outweigh the amount being claimed. Maybe they need to improve the enforcement processes to ensure that Court Orders are given the due respect ??

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 4:26 pm

Basically, it just means anybody planning on using the SCT should go to the Subordinate Courts website and read up on the process and also the process of forcing collection of same if necessary. Unless you are owed over $1000, it really doesn't make much sense to pursue it further than gaining judgement against someone. If you do, then if you publish it (if the person doesn't pay) I reckon you are protected as I don't think it could be construed as Liable or Slander as you SCT has given you a judgement. The threat of that action in itself could be enough of a detriment that would cause the person to pay up what is owed. Otherwise, it could well cause the person bigger losses than the amount originally owed. Of course I think I'd talked to somebody in the know as I'm not a lawyer nor profess to be.

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Postby x9200 » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 4:42 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:If you do, then if you publish it (if the person doesn't pay) I reckon you are protected as I don't think it could be construed as Liable or Slander as you SCT has given you a judgement.

I have some doubts. Judging from the local legal defamation-trigger-happy environment I would not be surprised if the court would rule according to the potential impact of such publication, especially if a company is the defendant. I suspect the reason for all this defamation hurray culture is an assumption that the sustainability of the local business is more important then so called justice or fairness. If the publicizing action generates a lot of losses to the company it is something bad for the economy even if one individual suffers some unfair treatment.

And yes, I am also very disappointed reading all what was said above about the impotency of the SCT.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 5:16 pm

Yeah, even after 32 years, I forget, occasionally, where I am. You have a valid point! :?

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Postby Beeroclock » Mon, 10 Feb 2014 5:28 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Basically, it just means anybody planning on using the SCT should go to the Subordinate Courts website and read up on the process and also the process of forcing collection of same if necessary. Unless you are owed over $1000, it really doesn't make much sense to pursue it further than gaining judgement against someone....


https://app.subcourts.gov.sg/Data/Files ... 202013.pdf

Yes I was reading up here. As OP says the bailiff cannot pursue Writ of Seizure and Sale, I guess it needs to be the "garnishee proceedings", if you happen to know which bank the respondent uses, and if he keeps enough money in the account. If not then I guess would have to do the "Examination of judgement debtor" to find out.

And it is all prefaced by "Do consider if it is worthwhile to pursue enforcement of the Order. Do note that the party seeking to enforce an Order is solely and fully responsible to make the necessary applications in accordance with the law. You will have to spend time, effort and money to enforce the Order and the outcome is never guaranteed. Fees paid to the Tribunals or the Subordinate Courts in enforcement proceedings are not refundable."

To me this seems to be a fundamental flaw of the SCT and no wonder people choose to "no show", if you can just let the ruling go against you and ignore it.

For the OP, can only keep going if you qualify for pro bono legal support, or you have a lawyer friend willing to assist. Other than that, I wonder if any small legal firms consider to take such cases on a percentage recovery fee basis. Also would be interested if claimants legal and other costs for the enforcement proceeding can be recovered from the respondent if the Tribunal/Court rules accordingly.

Personally I hope the SCT might consider an enforcement process with more teeth, to protect it's credibility, ensure justice gets done, and make clear consequences for those who ignore/disregard (effectively treat the SCT with contempt ?!?).

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Postby atanck » Tue, 11 Mar 2014 5:14 pm

I feel for the creditor in this discussion, and the sad truth in this economy is. Be very carefully where your money goes! Every due diligence is solely done by the the person who pays the cash and nobody is going to help you without further incurring more cost!

SCT helps by judging who is right who is wrong, but even so, the money is not 100% guarantee you will get your cash back. Under Writ of seizure and Sale you are also right that not all moveable property can be seized and therefore its another round not 100% sure you are getting back your money. Worst will be the case where there isn't any property to seize at all! And that will be the last step where the government will help you. The rest you have to engage your own lawyer to seek further advise, in which if your debt is not big enough to hire a lawyer, its not point going that far.

Try collecting the debt yourself, get some friends to help.


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