Rents in Singapore can feel a little eye-watering at times, particularly so if your home country has a much lower cost of housing, or if you’ve owned your own home. But the thing that really gets to a lot of people is the major chunk of cash you have to hand over for your security deposit.
What is a Security Deposit?
Sometimes called a damage deposit, the security deposit is a sum of money passed to your Landlord, usually when you sign your Tenancy Agreement.
In Singapore, the amount you’ll pay is usually is one month’s rent for a one year lease, and two month’s rent for a two year lease. So, if your monthly rent is SGD 5,000 per month, and you sign a two year lease, you’ll typically have to pay SDG 10,000 up front.
Unlike some other countries, it’s usually kept in the Landlord’s account, and is typically refunded back to the Tenant within seven days of handing back the property, minus any deductions.
What is it for?
The purpose of the security deposit is twofold. Most commonly, it serves as a safeguard for the Landlord, in case the property suffers damage due to negligence of the tenant. Secondly, if the lease is terminated prematurely (without prior arrangement) then the damage deposit can be withheld to cover any outstanding rent or the Landlord’s inconvenience
How do I protect it?
1. Pay your rent on time and in full
Some Landlord’s will use your deposit to covered any unpaid rent or late payment fees.
2. Thoroughly document the condition of the property upon move in
Go round the whole apartment in close detail to check for any prior damage. Open cupboard doors, windows, check the lights, look for marks and scratches on walls or floors. Make sure you take photos of everything and, if possible, get everything recorded in writing. Greyloft offers this service as standard, but most property agents do not. If your agent doesn’t, make sure you put everything in an email to them, with photos attached, so they can share it with the Landlord and/or Landlord’s Agent.
3. Take care of your property
It probably sounds a bit obvious, but the simplest way to get your deposit back is to take care of your home as if it were your own. Get repairs sorted quickly, and keep your property clean. That way, when you leave, it’s much less work (and expense!) to return it to its former state. Of course, accidents happen, but it’s best to get things resolved quickly.
4. Think about professional cleaning and repairs
Think about getting a professional cleaning company in when you vacate the property. First impressions count, even when handing a property back, and it’s a small price to pay to get your whole deposit back. If you’ve hung artwork or mirrors, get the holes filled in and made good. Arranging the repairs yourself means you can get things done for less money than the Landlord might charge you.[Ed’s note – in our first rental property, I accidentally smashed a bottle of vinegar on our marble floor, which left a horrible mark. We got the floor re-polished when we moved out, which didn’t cost much and meant we got our entire deposit back]
5. Agree any responsibility for damage
When you hand back your property, ask to go round it with your Agent and the Landlord (or their Agent) to check for any damage. If possible, get them to sign off on the condition of the property with you present, so they don’t mysteriously find areas of damage to charge you for later on!
What if there is a dispute?
Many Western countries have dedicated tenancy tribunals systems or protective legislation to help with property disputes. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there is no such system in Singapore and your only recourse would be to seek private legal action.
Singapore, like many other countries, has a Small Claims Tribunal, where you can file legal action for any amounts under SGD 10,000. This amount can be raised to a maximum of SGD 20,000 if both parties consent in writing, which should be sufficient for most rental disputes. There is a lot of helpful information on the Singapore State Courts website.
If you want to avoid legal action, our top tip is to ensure you have good documentation, ask to see receipts for any deductions, and make good use of your agent, to try and help get things resolved in an amicable fashion.