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Tenancy agreements/leases and your rights as a tenant

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Postby JR8 » Mon, 18 Feb 2013 7:15 pm

You cannot be bound by a contract to which you are not a party.

For example the MT might have agreed with the LL that he'll dance around the swimming pool each morning with a flock of pink flamingos, but that does not mean that you are obliged to join him.

In circumstances such as these it would be common for the MT to incorporate (physically) any agreement he has with the LL, into the tenancy agreement he has with you. He would then in your agreement refer to the 'head-agreement' and state that all it's requirements apply to your agreement.

Did the air-con work when you moved in? If so, the MT (or LL, the legal structure and respective obligations are a little unclear) has an obligation to provide/facilitate this service. I can see no reason why you should be obliged to repair part of the 'fixtures and fittings' just because they happen to be in your room.

Asking to see the receipt for the $200 bill is entirely reasonable. That the MT is unwilling to extend the simple courtesy of showing it to you speaks volumes. The MT's blind greed ends up rather shooting him in the foot though, as his behaviour leaves you in no doubt what kind of person you are dealing with. So, he has sown a whirlwind which might come back and fell him.

Not only are you not obliged to pay for upkeep of fixtures and fittings, you are not bound to ensure the future performance of any maintenance carried out to them either (any such obligations are with the engineers). But let's be brutally honest, he's just stealing your money isn't he? So what are you going to do about it?

a) Suck it up, move on, and take it as a lesson in life.

b) Give him a chance to pay you back, and if he won't, threaten him with court, and if needs be follow it through.


Only you can decide what works best given your personal inclinations and circumstances.

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Dodgy looking tenancy agreement

Postby mhalliday » Thu, 14 Mar 2013 5:06 pm

We are in the process of trying to move to a different condo. We have been presented with a tenancy agreement that bears only a passing resemblance to the more standard agreement we currently have. Apparently it is the Landlord's own version (not her agents). It appears to be an edited version of an older version of the current model agreement. By edited I mean that anything that might be about protecting the tenant has been removed. It would be laughable except that she obviously expects us to sign it.

I spent several hours going through it with a fine tooth comb, and basically put back in all the missing bits. I also made sure to request further amendments in line with the advice on the sticky at the beginning of this thread. (We did this last time, and all changes were accepted.) I used our current TA, and the Consumer Affiars model TA as my guide. (And made it clear I had done this, so they know where I am getting my wording from.)

No response so far, except a complaint from the other agent about "so many amendments"! If they had presented us with a sensible document, we may have only needed to ask for a few changes. :roll:

So - my questions are:

1) Is this sort of thing common? (Landlord presents ludicrously one sided TA and hopes tenants are too stupid to understand it). Is it part of a game? My agent thinks she is just "having a try" and probably knows the TA is full of holes. I'm not so sure I understand what on earth she is thinking. She is a well educated person, and has met us and knows we are well educated western professionals (i.e., our first language is English therefore we can read and understand the TA)

2) If she refuses to make the amendments (and there are quite a few), would it be a good strategy to suggest we use our current TA as a model ( and just change details like names, dates etc.)? Or is this likely to offend her? (I.e., we rejected "her" personal TA)

Whilst we are prepared to walk away if we have to (we will NOT be signing the TA in its current form), we rather like the apartment and would like to somehow negotiate a satisfactory outcome.

Love to hear any advice about dealing with this sort of Landlord behaviour.

thanks
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Postby zzm9980 » Thu, 14 Mar 2013 5:11 pm

I wouldn't say common, but it's not surprising.

You should just walk away if she doesn't accept enough of your amendments to satisfy you.

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Postby JR8 » Thu, 14 Mar 2013 5:31 pm

1) It's a game of kiasu-chicken, though if th TA were ever put in front of a court your lack of 'protection' might be deemed unjust.

2) Oh yes I'm sure proposing your own TA would offend the landlord. After all he believes he is the expert, the granter, the boss. Proposing your own TA would be proposing a reversal of status, no less. Guaranteed to offend an Asian landlord.

But don't feel duress to comply with $hitty/archaic/dumb requirements. If that is what is demanded of you, move on*.... there are plenty more fish in the sea.


* and reflect upon: How if this is the crap you have to put with before you've rented a place, what kind of mega-crap are you likely to face once in there.

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Postby x9200 » Thu, 14 Mar 2013 8:58 pm

For any comment on her side on the clauses you added respond that this is a standard clause for TAs. Ask your agent for a general TA her/his company must have. "This is a standard clause" is a mantra repeated by all the agents we ever had gotten involved so far for any changes we wanted to introduce to TA. It did not work in our case but there is a chance it may work in the case of the local LL.

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Postby mhalliday » Sun, 17 Mar 2013 6:35 pm

Thanks for the helpful feedback! So far the landlord has accepted the majority of our amendments. In a bizarre twist she also made further deletions and improvements- to her own document! Makes us wonder where she got it from, and whether she had even read it first herself.

We are now on to round two, where we are addressing the appallingly worded "indemnity clause", which basically has to go, or at least be written in a way that is more acceptable and safe to sign. Even our agent was aghast at what they want to have in this clause. ( us indemnifying the landlord against everything under the sun). We are also arguing that she has to give us a demand notice if our rent bank transfer goes awry without us knowing. At present she can simply take the premises back 7 days after not receiving rent, with no requirement that she even tell us. We are sticking to our guns as the banking transfer error happened to us 2 years ago, and we only realized when the landlord contacted us.

Ah..... The joys of tenancy laws, or the lack thereof, in Singapore! In my dreams all Singaporean tenancy agreements would be standardized, approved by a relevant government authority, and written in modern, plain English........Wouldn't that save everyone a headache!

Thanks again for the advice and support. Fingers crossed!
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Postby JR8 » Mon, 18 Mar 2013 7:52 am

Only read half your post..... but yeah.... don't be surprised.

Now had a chance to finish reading it...

The thing is that a lot of landlords in SG have their own Tenancy Agreements, and they use them year in year out, often apparently adding in some more randon clauses on each renewal. So it gets to a point where they quite possibly haven't even read it in many years, and are essentially ignorant to it's contents. To compound that thy can also try and incorporate other clauses if those clauses have no legal standing*. This is why TAs often seem to be a random hotch-potch of various obligations (they rarely seem to properly incorporate tenants rights, in my experience).

In the UK there is an ISO 'Crystal-mark' (plain English) standard Tenancy Agreement, but it only came in say 10-15 years ago. So don't expect to see anything similar in SG in the near future...


* Example threatening to summarily evict you if the rent is a week late. Haha good one, what on earth is she thinking: Making up her own 'laws' on a whim.
Last edited by JR8 on Tue, 19 Mar 2013 6:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Northcote » Tue, 19 Mar 2013 5:53 pm

Hi All,

We are newly arrived expats here and also having some troubles negotiating what we would view to be a 'reasonable' TA with a landlord.

While we have managed to amend some clauses like 'regularly dry cleaning the curtains', we are not having much success with others, in particular:

-No movement on security deposit only being held against damage to property or unpaid rent (it is for all clauses of TA)
-No willingness to place an annual cap on minor repairs (at $150 per repair)
-Will not remove the word 'immoral' despite not being able to give us a their definition of the word
-Won't accept a 'reasonable attempts' addition to the 7 days from rent due clause
-There is an agent commission claw back clause inserted in case of early contract termination.

Just wondering if most people have been able to get these things amended or are we just being too 'fussy' and don't understand local concepts (and trying to apply too much Australian common sense)?

Keen to hear other's experiences in the negotiation phase and if we should walk away or if we just have to be contract takers because LL's have all the power.

Thanks in advance

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Postby JR8 » Tue, 19 Mar 2013 6:44 pm

Northcote wrote:Hi All,

We are newly arrived expats here and also having some troubles negotiating what we would view to be a 'reasonable' TA with a landlord.

While we have managed to amend some clauses like 'regularly dry cleaning the curtains', we are not having much success with others, in particular:

-No movement on security deposit only being held against damage to property or unpaid rent (it is for all clauses of TA)

JR8:
What else could it be held against? Also note the issue is 'damage beyond reasonable wear and tear'. That is because it is accepted as a given, that even a model tenant, by the very fact of living in a property, some wear and tear will occur.

That said, do note that a TA will also often require a tenant to indemnify the landlord against any third party action/fines triggered by the actions of the tenant (say a fine from condo management).


-No willingness to place an annual cap on minor repairs (at $150 per repair)

JR8:
Tricky one. The aim is to stop you calling them out every time something really minor happens (example: you ask the landlord to come and replace a blown lightbulb). I can see with some kiasu tenants that this co-pay has it's reasons. For us last time, we just ended up fixing most problems ourselves.


-Will not remove the word 'immoral' despite not being able to give us a their definition of the word

JR8:
That is a standard clause: You will see it in UK leases, even one's going back 100 years.

A Definition would be that you will not use to premises for immoral purposes, such as running a brothel, or an opium den. Don't worry about this one is my 2c, I've never heard a person who has ever had a problem via this clause.


-Won't accept a 'reasonable attempts' addition to the 7 days from rent due clause

JR8:
Well if I were them I would, as that would be reasonable!


-There is an agent commission claw back clause inserted in case of early contract termination.

JR8:
Yes, I think that one is normal too. They have to pay the agent assuming (IIRC) a full 12/24 month TA. If you bail out early, the landlord gets hit for commission, and the double whammy is he has no rental income during any void.


Just wondering if most people have been able to get these things amended or are we just being too 'fussy' and don't understand local concepts (and trying to apply too much Australian common sense)?

JR8:
It is pretty archaic, but a lot of these clauses do make sense. What you have to differentiate is when the landlord is being over-zealous, and unreasonable.



Keen to hear other's experiences in the negotiation phase and if we should walk away or if we just have to be contract takers because LL's have all the power.

Thanks in advance

JR8:
The landlord is probably unused to tenants understanding or requesting amendments (intelligent or otherwise). Assuming the landlord is a local, be careful not to dent their pride by demonstrating that you understand more about TA's than he does. Try and keep it light-hearted, and explain in the simplest terms why any questionable clauses are unreasonable or won't help.

Also, and I know it's difficult, try not to get your heart set on one place before you've signed the TA. Maybe casually drop into conversation that you're continuing to view other apartments. It might help motivate him.

Good luck and revert if you have any follow up questions.





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Postby x9200 » Tue, 19 Mar 2013 7:56 pm

Northcote wrote:-No movement on security deposit only being held against damage to property or unpaid rent (it is for all clauses of TA)

How is it phrased in the current shape?


-No willingness to place an annual cap on minor repairs (at $150 per repair)

From my experience so far this is negligible unless you are going to rent a really ran down place. For 12y or so of renting here we paid something like 300 in total for the minor repairs.


-Will not remove the word 'immoral' despite not being able to give us a their definition of the word

Just ignore it. Not significant and not worth the time to convince a typical LL.

-Won't accept a 'reasonable attempts' addition to the 7 days from rent due clause

and what suppose to happen if it remains unpaid?

-There is an agent commission claw back clause inserted in case of early contract termination.

Seems fair if this is on prorated bases.
.

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Postby Northcote » Tue, 19 Mar 2013 9:30 pm

Thanks for the advice JR8 and x9200, it is gratefully received.

I think I've just spend a bit too long on this thread and become a bit paranoid about any potential clause that could be turned against us to try and keep our deposit in 2 years time or twisted to kick us out early and then keep the deposit.

Perhaps we've just taken our professional scepticism a little bit too far for the poor landlord. Let's just hope I'm not back on this thread in two years time asking for advice on how to deal with a terrible LL :D

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Postby JR8 » Tue, 19 Mar 2013 9:43 pm

What you could casually drop into conversation is:

'Oh yes I understand the point of that [x/y/z] clause. I'm a landlord back home, have been for x [5/10/...] years, and I had to once take a tenant to court over precisely this point'! [snort, smile and gently shake your head].

Doesn't matter which clause you choose, perhaps something basic like not giving proper notice, but it does help to convey that you apparently know your stuff, and you have previously had recourse to the law and won. It is a truism that going to court for the first time is intimidating. But once you've been once, it's not half as bad thereafter. What I'm suggesting is about building a picture of an informed person, who will not take any bull.

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Postby x9200 » Tue, 19 Mar 2013 10:12 pm

Don't worry, I am pretty much paranoid myself and typically ending up with ~70% of the TA amended. I will give you an example just in case you have overlooked it yourself :)
In all the TA I have seen so far there are clauses obliging tenants not to do anything that could violate the LL's insurance of the premises (i.e. against fire). Same goes for not breaching any regulation of the condo. In cases like this I typically add something similar to this: providing always that the content of the governing or other relevant documents is made known to the tenants.

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Advice and questions about handover check-in check-out

Postby naylera » Sat, 13 Apr 2013 3:30 pm

Changed
Last edited by naylera on Wed, 29 May 2013 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby JR8 » Sat, 13 Apr 2013 10:38 pm

Wow, what a saga. But that said it is something that seems to be a common occurrence with SGn landlords; they consider the deposit as theirs to keep, and/or to renovate the property back to ‘as new’ condition at the end of a tenancy.

Some random thoughts:

Did you have a 12 month (renewable) tenancy agreement (TA) and break it at after a 6-month break clause? If so that is likely to annoyed him, and now (in his mind) he is seeking to get even with you.

Not disclosing that the property is his was damned unprofessional. This non-disclosure might be considered a conflict of interest in many 1st-world countries.

You didn’t even read the contract before signing it? Not even check the owners name!? Well, I expect that will be a lesson for the future.

re: cleaning. In general terms you are expected to return a property in the same condition that you received it, with with recognition of, and allowance for, fair wear and tear.

In my experience (as a professional landlord), even the most diligent of tenants will never achieve the overall standard of ‘check-out clean’ that professional cleaners will. Tenants think they can, but they never do.

Receipts – He wants to see proof it has been properly done. That’s reasonable. (That he might try and use said receipts for a tax write-off, is a side issue).

re: the sink. You have a very strong case on this (with your manufacturers e-mail). Let me guess, your landlord is also a plumber and the repair is going to be $1,000. Or the landlord will use a plumber who is a friend, who will indirectly bill you $1,000, and then give $500 cash back to the landlord. This is a common ruse with ‘cowboy landlords’.

I hadn’t heard of the SMC before. Do they deal with ‘landlord and tenant’ disputes? It wasn’t clear from their website. Their FAQ suggests landlord disputes are handled via Neighbourhood Community Groups. BUT, they are not available for foreigners: So how? That’s one for you to explore further. Decisions/judgements at the SMC are not published, and before arbitrating through one you sign an agreement not to disclose the arbitration or judgement. Do you think that is what is motivating your landlord? I.e. He wants to do everything off the record and out of the public eye?

So, you could have a go at rattling his cage. For example give him a written 7-days Notice to return your deposit in full (or full, less any deductions you consider reasonable). At the same time you could state that if he fails to comply you will be taking the matter forthwith to either the Singapore Council of Estate Agents for ‘dispute resolution’ (It doesn’t matter whether they offer this or not, it is the message you’re sending him that matters) or to the Small Claims Court. I don’t know what it takes to lose a Singaporean agents license, but I don’t imagine being found against at the SCC is seen as any form of bonus! The art of this, especially in a place like SG, is in wielding a VERY VERY big stick, whilst giving him a very clear and face-saving ('I'm sure it is simply an oversight on your part, but'...) route out. You are trying to encourage swift resolution, rather than start WW3 via litigation.

You can’t be held liable for supposed damages after the check-out inspection has been carried out and agreed.

So if he hasn’t returned the depo after 14 days per your contract, give him 7 days notice written notice, ‘or else’. If he ignores that, or fails to perform, then do precisely what you said you will, no ifs, no buts.

p.s. Please keep us updated with how this goes. This kind of question comes up over and over and over again. But unfortunately tenants don’t come back and report the outcome of their cases very often. Keeping the forum in touch with how it pans out, will be of great assistance to those who will inevitably follow in similar footsteps in the future.

Good luck!

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[Tags: Landlord deposit dispute rent tenant tenancy agreement damage clean return]


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