Renting in Singapore: Guide to Tenancy Agreements

Tenancy Agreements 101

Are you looking to rent? Or do you have a house or rooms to rent out? Whether you’re doing it for the first (or fifteenth) time, it could potentially be a complex process for you as a tenant or landlord.

Comfy is here to help. This article maps out the process of renting and the important things to note in tenancy agreements for both tenants and landlords.

Use the links below to jump to the relevant sections of the guide!

Tenancy agreement guide for Tenants

Tenancy agreement guide for Landlords

I’m a Tenant

So you’ve found your dream apartment and can’t wait to move in? While some tenants and landlords think a handshake and a few simple lines scribbled on a piece of paper would suffice, it’s always good to take a moment (to your own and your landlord’s benefit) and follow the legit steps to renting.

Step 1: Issue a Letter of Intent for the prospective landlord

You prepare the Letter of Intent. It is your formal offer to the landlord to rent his property with your requirements such as:

  • Term of lease
  • Good faith deposit: Most prospective tenants will give 1 month’s rent in advance so that the landlord will not rent to anyone else. This good faith deposit is converted into the security deposit or the first month rent upon signing the Tenancy Agreement.
  • Security deposit: Amount kept by the landlord for security and payable by you after the Tenant Agreement is signed. Your landlord will return you your security deposit - less any deduction - when your lease term expires.
  • Monthly rental amount

  • Any other requirements such as permission to live with pets

Want to learn more about the Letter of Intent? Check out Comfy's guide to the Letter of Intent.

Step 2: Thoroughly read through the Tenancy Agreement drafted by the prospective landlord

Once the landlord signs your Letter of Intent, he’ll prepare the Tenancy Agreement for you. A Tenancy Agreement is an official contract to lease the property. It’s obligatory for both you and your prospective landlord to sign the Tenancy Agreement for it to be effective.

Anatomy of a Tenancy Agreement

  • Your details
    • Your full name
    • Your NRIC/passport number
    • Your current address
    • Registered occupier name(s)
    • Registered occupier NRIC/passport number(s)
  • Landlord’s details
    • Landlord’s full name
    • Landlord’s NRIC/passport number
    • Landlord’s current address
  • Lease details
    • Address of property for rental
    • Date of commencement of lease
    • Duration of rental
    • Monthly rent amount and its mode of payment
    • Security deposit amount
    • Inventory list and defects
    • Who pays for the utilities and phone bills
    • Who pays for repairs and ceiling amount
    • Who maintains the air-conditioner and minor repairs
    • Who maintains the garden
    • When the landlord can start property viewings as the lease is approaching its end
    • Agreement that landlord continues to pay property tax and insurance
    • What is the interest payable for late rental payments
    • Can you renew before the lease is up?
Important details to include in the Tenancy Agreement

Besides checking the above information, you may also wish to include the following important clauses in the Tenancy Agreement to safeguard your own interest as a tenant.


1. Diplomatic clause


If you’re an expatriate renting in Singapore, it’s to your advantage to include the Diplomatic clause in the Tenancy Agreement. In the event that you need to cut short your stay in Singapore and head home, this clause will let you end your rental agreement without having you fork out a huge penalty amount after you’ve stayed for a designated period of time (for example 14 months for a 2-year lease).

Comfy Tip: Most landlords will only include the Diplomatic Clause if the lease is more than a year.

2. Maintenance and repair liabilities


In a standard Tenancy Agreement, the tenant is usually liable for maintenance or repair expenses of no more than $100 to $150. Typically, you should also have up to 30 days to report defects around the house such as broken wall sockets, toilet leaks, bad plumbing and others. Your Tenancy Agreement should clearly state that the landlord is the one to manage such issues.

Comfy Tip: if you discover that you’re liable for a much higher amount, don’t be afraid to politely ask the prospective landlord for justification.

For air-conditioner maintenance, it’s standard in Singapore for the tenant to be responsible for it. The air-conditioners in the house should be serviced every 3 months. Always remember to keep the receipts from the servicing visits as your landlord may ask to see them by the end of your lease.

However, if you encounter major problems with the air-conditioners (such as the units need to be replaced or undergo extensive repairs), your landlord is usually the one responsible for any expenses incurred.


Comfy Suggests:

You can define the amounts you’re liable to pay for minor repairs and ensure that the landlord takes care of the major expenses by including something like ‘responsible for the first $150-$200 for repairs and the landlord would bear the rest of the cost should the overall amount exceeds these limits’. You can also maintain the right to choose your own maintenance personnel by stating something like ‘be able to choose their own maintenance contractors if required’.

3. Security deposit

There are instances where the tenant has to forfeit a huge part of the security deposit or all of it due to reasons other than compensation for damages to the property. It’d be good if you clearly state the terms and conditions for returning the security deposit.

Comfy Suggests:
  • You can explicitly mention something like ‘the security deposit is only to be used in relation to damages to the property or unpaid rent’.
  • You may also state that the landlord ‘must advise in writing before deducting any amount from the security deposit’.

  • You can further protect yourself as a tenant by including how soon you expect the security deposit to be returned to you by the end of your lease by stating something like ‘the deposit must be paid back within xx days from the end of the lease.’
4. House viewing near the end of the lease

While the landlord can bring prospective tenants to view the house before the lease of the current tenant ends, it’s to your advantage if you establish the timeframe that the landlord can conduct house viewings. After all, you wouldn’t want strangers intruding and wandering around the house at odd hours, do you?

Comfy Suggests:

You can give the landlord a reasonable timeframe to inform you that there will be house viewings before he actually schedules for one by stating something like ‘permission by the tenant must be sought in writing via email, SMS, Whatsapp, LINE or WeChat messages at least 24-48 hours prior to any house viewings’.

5. Rental payment


While you would have made every effort to pay your rent on time every month, there could be circumstances where you didn’t intentionally pay late. For instance, you could be travelling overseas and forgot about paying rent on time that month. Or that the landlord has changed the bank account you pay rent to and forgot to inform you about it.

Comfy Suggests:

You shouldn’t be penalised with late rental payment charges when you didn’t do it on purpose. You can protect yourself by stating something like this in the Tenancy Agreement: ‘tenant will not be held responsible for late rental payment penalties if he/she has made all reasonable effort to pay by the clearly communicated rent payment arrangement’.

Step 3: Sign Tenancy Agreement and pay stamp duties

Both you and the landlord must sign the Tenancy Agreement for it to be binding and effective. After that, it must also be endorsed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. You’re responsible for paying the stamp duties and it’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure all the correct stamps and seals are in place on the Tenancy Agreement. For more information on how much stamp duties you’ll have to pay, check out the IRAS website.

Comfy Tip: for your own peace of mind, you may request to see a receipt from the landlord to ensure that your money really went into paying for the stamp duties.

Step 4: Check inventory list

This is a list of all the furnishings, appliances and fittings in the house such as wall sockets, refrigerator, washing machine, water heater, etc. We know, most tenants are very likely to be a little slipshod here as it’s admittedly tedious to go through every item on the list and check their working conditions.

However, do be aware that there could be dishonest landlords out there who would try to rip off the tenant. For example, they could replace the microwave with a cheaper brand in the house (but indicate a premium brand in the inventory list) and then insist that you pay for the premium brand later on. You could snap photos of the furniture or every corner of the house so that you’ve documentation to support your case should disputes happen in the future.

Comfy Tip: besides checking on the working conditions of the appliances, fittings or furnishings in the house, it may be worth your while to note down their brands as well when you go through the inventory list.


Step 5: Collect keys from your landlord

This is the day you’ve been so looking forward to! Happy house-warming! :-)

I’m a Landlord

It’s wonderful that your property can be another source of income for you. When a prospective tenant has the intention of renting your property and you share the same intention, you may proceed to the next steps.

Step 1: Collect Letter of Intent and good faith deposit from prospective tenant

Your prospective tenant should give you a Letter of Intent which is his formal offer to rent your property. He’ll state the following in his Letter of Intent:

  • Term of lease
  • Good faith deposit: most prospective tenants will give an amount equivalent to 1 month rent as the good faith deposit so that you will not rent your property to anyone else. You must return this good faith deposit if you don’t accept the rental offer. This good faith deposit is usually converted into the security deposit or the first month of rent upon the signing the Tenancy Agreement
  • Security deposit: you’ll keep this amount for security which is payable by the tenant after the Tenant Agreement is signed. You’ll return the security deposit to your tenant when his lease term expires, less any deductions
  • Monthly rental amount
  • Any other requirements the prospect tenant may rise such as permission to live with pets


Step 2: You prepare the Tenancy Agreement

If you agree with the prospective tenant’s offer, you’ll then need to prepare the Tenancy Agreement which is a formal rental contract.

Anatomy of a Tenancy Agreement

  • Your details
    • Your full name
    • Your NRIC/passport number
    • Your current address
  • Tenant's details
    • Tenant's full name
    • Tenant's NRIC/passport number
    • Tenant's current address
    • Registered occupier name(s)
    • Registered occupier NRIC/passport number(s)
  • Lease details
    • Address of property for rental
    • Date of commencement of lease
    • Duration of rental
    • Monthly rent amount and its mode of payment
    • Security deposit amount
    • Inventory list and defects
    • Who pays for the utilities and phone bills
    • Who pays for repairs and ceiling amount
    • Who maintains the air-conditioner and minor repairs
    • Who maintains the garden
    • When the landlord can start property viewings as the lease is approaching its end
    • Agreement that landlord continues to pay property tax and insurance
    • What is the interest payable for late rental payments
    • Can you renew before the lease is up?
Important details to include in the Tenancy Agreement
1. Diplomatic clause


This is important when your tenant is an expatriate. Under this clause, your tenant can choose to terminate his lease after 12 months by giving you 2 months of notice if he unexpectedly loses his job in Singapore or he’s transferred to another country.

Of course, the tenant has to show you proof of his employment termination or transfer to another country. You would then have to return the security deposit (less any expenses) to your tenant.

Most landlords will only include the Diplomatic Clause if the lease is more than a year.

2.En-bloc clause

If you know that your property is approaching the end of its 99 years of lease, you can include an en-bloc clause in the Tenancy Agreement. With this clause, you’re expecting your tenant to have understood that his lease will have to end prematurely without having you compensate him.


3. Rental payment


To safeguard your own interest as a landlord, beyond only stating the amount of monthly rent the tenant is liable to pay, you should also state by which date it should be paid (before late payment penalty kicks in) and the means you’d like to receive rent (eg. via cheque or bank transfer).

Step 3: Signing the Tenancy Agreement and payment of security deposit and advance first month rent

It’s obligatory that both you and your tenant sign the Tenancy Agreement for it to be binding and effective. The tenant will then have to pay the security deposit (this is usually converted from the good faith deposit that he had already paid) and the first month rent in advance.

Step 4: Payment of stamp duty

This is paid for by your tenant. He can give you the money while you get the Tenancy Agreement duly stamped and authorised by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. In this case, you should show your tenant the properly endorsed Tenancy Agreement and receipt to prove that the money he gave you had really gone into paying for the stamp duty. You could e-Stamp online or at any of these locations listed by IRAS.

Step 5: Tenant inspection and handover

Before the tenant goes to your property for inspection prior to moving in, you should already have prepared an inventory list which details all the furnishings, fittings and appliance as well as their working conditions. Your tenant should go through every item on the inventory list a few days before the commencement date of the lease.

When the tenant is done checking, you can then hand over the keys of your property. Congratulations, you have a new tenant!

In Closing

Searching for a place to rent? Have a spare room you'd like to rent out? Check out Comfy! With online applications, digital leases, and online rent payments, Comfy's online platform helps landlords and tenants simplify their rental experience.

Get started with Comfy today!


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