Room Rental - PUB topup issue

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uXuf
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Room Rental - PUB topup issue

Post by uXuf » Thu, 23 Jul 2009 12:46 am

Hi all,

I have been a passive browser of the SE for quite some time now, but this is the first time I have an issue that I need advice on.

My wife and I have been renting this room since last May from an Indonesian couple. The landlord speaks passable English but the landlady does not. This is also the first time (according to them) they are renting out their room.

The issue is that, at the time of the contract, no mention was made of any PUB topup and it's not spelled out in the contract. I should note that the rent I am paying is inclusive of the PUB bills. With the current bill (which should be the first bill since we moved in) they just came up with a ceiling of $50 per person and are demanding that we topup the rest of the amount to them or they will deduct it from our deposit. These demands are made by their agent as the landlord himself doesn't really engage us for almost any issue. The agent claims that this is standard practice and even the $50 per person limit is standard; that she was really not bound to tell us beforehand and that we should be compassionate to the landlord.

We also have a very useless agent (a co-broke) who acts like she is actually representing the landlord; she agrees to everything the landlord's agent asks behind our backs and then kinda forces it on us that these are standard industry practices etc.

We have had rented a few rooms earlier too and never ever had such a problem before. Everything was either spelled out in the contract or told to us verbally at the time the contract was being signed. This time the PUB topup is neither in the contract nor it was told to us when the contract was signed, not even when we were moving in (we signed the contract one month before we moved in), only after a month and a half when we moved in. Even then their agent said that we all should agree on a limit and if the bill is above the limit, then we are supposed to cut down on our PUB usage.

I have even gone so far (as I understand my landlord's financial problems) to propose that since it was not conveyed to us properly, we are not paying the topup for this month, but are ready to topup starting from next month.

Now their agent wants us to pay the 50 or so dollars for this month or she will deduct it from our deposit. What I need advice on is:

1. Am I bound to honour this and pay the topup when it is not in the contract neither it was told to us by any of the agents nor by the owners?
2. What should our position be on their claims of "standard practices" which are not spelled out in the contract but they come up with every now and then?
3. What should I do with my agent who seems to be representing the owners rather than us, and actually argues with us to accept whatever the landlord's agent says?
4. What is the limit on one person's PUB usage for a month, since both the agents seem to be adamant that a $50 limit is industry practice and is "standard". They even go as far as to quote the SP Services on it. Does this even have any legal value?
5. How is the topup amount usually split? Why do we pay ALL the amount above the limit when the landlord could suddenly jack up their PUB usage and claim everything on us?

We have so far had a great time living with different people in Singapore, and we still have good relations with all of our previous owners/landlords. This is the first time we are having this problem and it is definitely taking a toll on us.

Thanks in advance.

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jpatokal
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Re: Room Rental - PUB topup issue

Post by jpatokal » Thu, 23 Jul 2009 10:44 am

uXuf wrote:1. Am I bound to honour this and pay the topup when it is not in the contract neither it was told to us by any of the agents nor by the owners?
No. If your contract says it's inclusive of PUB bills, then it's inclusive of PUB bills, full stop. Make it clear, in writing, that you refuse to pay any "topups" and that you do not consent to any deductions being made from your deposit. Send a copy of this by registered mail, or at least e-mail with a return receipt. Do not put this in writing, but tell your agent and landlord in no uncertain terms that you will go to court if they attempt to tamper with your deposit. Be prepared to carry out the threat when it's time to move out.
2. What should our position be on their claims of "standard practices" which are not spelled out in the contract but they come up with every now and then?
If their "standard practice" is unreasonable, tell them to go pound sand.
3. What should I do with my agent who seems to be representing the owners rather than us, and actually argues with us to accept whatever the landlord's agent says?
Regrettably common, but you can't do anything except keep firm and ignore them.
4. What is the limit on one person's PUB usage for a month, since both the agents seem to be adamant that a $50 limit is industry practice and is "standard". They even go as far as to quote the SP Services on it. Does this even have any legal value?
If it's not written in the contract, then no, it's not.
5. How is the topup amount usually split?
It's split according to the contract.
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Post by uXuf » Thu, 23 Jul 2009 11:48 am

Thanks for the reply jpatokal.

I just realised that the bill they are talking about is actually the second bill since we moved in here, and since the first bill was an estimated one, it didn't reflect the additional usage. This means that the current bill actually compensates for the additional usage for the May-June period, something that they should have already accounted for. Now what I need to know that since the next bill will also be an estimated one, would the additional charge go down in the next meter reading bill (second from now), meaning the owners would actually have to pay less then? (our PUB usage pattern has already changed since both my wife and I are out of the house during the day now).

Their agent is also hinting that the owners cannot pay such utility bills and if it doesn't work out they would want us to leave. What rights do we have in such a scenario? Are they supposed to give us a notice for a month, and keep our deposit in lieu of that month's rental, or is it possible that they just hand us the deposit and ask us to leave in like a few days?

Thanks.

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Post by jpatokal » Fri, 24 Jul 2009 11:31 am

uXuf wrote:Now what I need to know that since the next bill will also be an estimated one, would the additional charge go down in the next meter reading bill (second from now), meaning the owners would actually have to pay less then? (our PUB usage pattern has already changed since both my wife and I are out of the house during the day now).
You don't need to know or care -- this is not your problem.
Their agent is also hinting that the owners cannot pay such utility bills and if it doesn't work out they would want us to leave. What rights do we have in such a scenario? Are they supposed to give us a notice for a month, and keep our deposit in lieu of that month's rental, or is it possible that they just hand us the deposit and ask us to leave in like a few days?
You have the rights that are spelled out in the contract, nothing less, nothing more. While with most template contracts, the landlord (technically) does not have the right to kick you out as long as you keep your side of the contract, but it's easy enough for them to find some excuse to boot you out.

That said, don't take your scumbag agent's comments at face value -- in this rental market, only an idiot would give up a year's steady rental stream over a few tens of dollars in PUB fees, and I'd wager they're just trying to pressure you into caving in and paying more.
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Post by ksl » Fri, 24 Jul 2009 12:52 pm

I would request to see the agents credentials, out of 30,000 operating in Singapore only 6000 are qualified, by the Estate agents association.

The newspaper this week stated they will start clamping down on agents, they have to be reported, if they are not members, and they can only be members if they have completed the very basic course.

It appears to be a legalised racket, tenants have very little recourse.

Singapore licenced estate agents, you can count on your fingers, I could only find 11 that were members, with 30.000 agents operating for them. This is extremely very big business in the hands of a few. Only 9 of the licenced members turned up for the meeting to address the concerns of tenants, they agreed that the publicity in Singapore is very bad, and agents need clamping down on, for acting unlawfully and without licence

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