Match-making or Renting an Apartment?

Gone are the days when potential tenants come in droves to view an apartment for rent when the unit opens up for viewing and tenants vie to rent a unit by outbidding the other party.  During those periods, landlords have the bargaining power and gets to state their preferred tenant profile while tenants with less “preferred” profile or limited budget struggle to find a suitable apartment.

We see more of a “tenant market” these days and one can find abundance of apartments available for rent in the market by just browsing through the postings on the internet.  Incidences of groups of tenants flocking to view an apartment are not so common now and some landlords are now in turn vying to attract tenant by lowering their asking rental price, lowering their requirements and more flexible.

One would have thought that it would be easy to find a place now since supply seems to exceed demand in the market now.  Nevertheless, foreigners working in Singapore and even our own fellow Singaporean are still facing difficulty when trying to rent a place and may feel clueless and frustrating when you are dealing with the landlord or estate agents.  Here’s a look at some of the frustrating prejudices that tenants may face in their house-hunting process which leaves some wondering if the landlords are looking for a “potential spouse material “.



No discrimination on our part, but these is the usual prejudices that are fairly common:

Indians – Typically associated with cooking curry and is worried that the whole house will smell of curry.  There will be curry stains all over the kitchen.

PRC Chinese – Overcrowding the apartment, bringing in friends/relatives or subletting the apartment.  Does not clean and take care of the house, damaged furniture, or using the apartment for illegal purposes.

Malays – Especially in cases of room rental where landlord may feel that is inconvenient due to Muslims having to adhere to Halal diet, or associate them with not paying rental on time.

Local Singaporean – Suspicion on the reason for locals having to rent instead of owning their own apartment, risk of the local tenant renting for illegal purpose, or having financial difficulties to escape “Ah Long” from their own house.

While it may be typical that a landlord may discriminate against another race, there are just as many landlords who do not want their own race as well, making the house-hunting process even more treacherous.


Marital Status/Profile

Just as the preference with race, landlords have certain reservations on the profile of the tenant, or specifically:

Family Unit with Kids – Landlords is worried that kids will damage the furniture; draw on the freshly-painted wall; scratch the sofa etc.

Family Unit with no Kids – On the other hand, some landlords may instead prefer family with kids as they believe that with kids around, the parents or adults are likely to take care of the house and maintain the general cleanliness. 

Couples/a.k.a. BF/GF – Suspicion that the tenant may break the lease when the couple quarrel and decide not to stay together.

Single – Suspicion that the male or female tenant may bring friends or guests up to the apartment often for parties, sleepover etc., and singles generally do not clean the house often.

Renting with Friends/Colleagues – Each individual will only take care of their own space and the common area like the kitchen, bathroom and living hall will be dirty, tenant may break lease or are unable to pay the rental when one of the parties leave the country or decide not to stay together. 


Employment Status/Job Nature

In addition to screening the tenant’s personal background, tenant has to fulfill the professional background preference as well, or specifically if the tenant holds an Employment Pass, S-Pass, Work Permit, or Student Pass.  Just as with the type of “pass” they have to stay in Singapore, the job nature of the tenant is also a crucial determining factor for the landlords. 

The list of criteria that landlords impose is not just limited to the above, and some landlords are known to have weird demands.  There have been cases where landlords have a preference for Indian tenant, but not all Indians but only NORTHERN INDIAN tenants, or landlords requesting that tenants be of certain gender and age range notwithstanding that he is renting out the whole apartment and will not be staying in the same house!

To make matter worse, as estate agent are not allowed to state race preference on property advertisements or wordings that may discriminate, tenants are lead to deeper confusion and frustration when they meet the following type of agent who try to avoid telling you the actual truth.

 The Can’t-be-bothered Agent telling you blindly that the apartment has been taken, when he has just listed or reposted the advertisement on the internet.  Well, we gotta say to such agent to please at least make some effort in coming up with a more valid excuse or reason to reject us, especially so when you are saying this after you have just asked for our profile.  If the unit is taken, why waste time asking for my profile and also waste your own time to post the advertisement right?

The “Delay-Time-Tactic” Agent who makes some effort in not rejecting you outright, but frustrates you as arrangement for viewing of the apartment seems to be eternal. 

  • On Monday, the agent tells you that the unit is not ready for viewing.
  • On Tuesday, the agent tells you that he is not free.
  • On Wednesday, the agent tells you that the current tenant is not free.
  • On Thursday, the agent tells you that the current tenant is not free again.
  • On Friday, the agents tell you that he is not free again.
  • On Saturday, the agent finally tells you that viewing is possible on Sunday.
  • On Sunday, the agent tells you that viewing is cancelled as the tenant needs to travel overseas urgently and will not be back within a month.
  • On Monday, you get your colleague to call the agent on your behalf and the agent tells your colleague miraculously that the unit can be viewed in the evening!

The “Waste-Time-Waste-Resources” Agent will arrange viewing for you.  You will definitely see other groups of tenant coming to view the unit at the same timing.  Basically, such agents will arrange for anyone to come to view the apartment and does not screen your profile.  It is also a good way to let them show the landlords that they manage to attract many potential tenants for their unit.  Unfortunately, you never seem to be able to secure the unit regardless that you make an offer immediately, increase your offer price, and adjust your move-in date to please the landlord. 

Whilst it may seem only logical that landlords rent out their apartments to reap the highest rental, the process of house-hunting in Singapore is not so straight-forward.  It perplex potential tenants to the point where one would feel that the apartment is rented for at most 2 years, but landlords seem to be screening you to a point where it feels like one is being match-make to a potential spouse!