Elbert is renewing his contract in the HDB flat he is renting. As he did every year, he will need to pay agent fee to the agent although he is not finding a new flat. He will simply continue in the flat he is renting but he will still need to pay for it anyway. He is not alone. I think this bizarre setting is a common in Singapore but there is a way to avoid it for tenants. Actually, the renting tip I will share here is also used when you are renting a new unit.
There are 2 types of agents in Singapore : landlord agents and tenant agents. By law an agent cannot charge agent fee from both parties. If you do not want to pay for property agent fee when you are renting a place, look for landlord agents and directly deal with them. Finding them is quite easy: just ask the agent when you call. I ask "are you landlord agent?". If the property agent you call ask you "are you an agent or tenant looking for a place?" he/she is probably a landlord agent.
I have rented my current unit like that. A new (6 years old at the time) HDB flat for 2,500 SGD per month. I found the landlord agent and directly dealed with them. So I have saved 1,250 SGD from the transaction. Later when I renewed my contract I did not pay agent fee also.
But isn't there a drawback? If a dispute arises you won't have a tenant agent to help you? Well even if you used an agent on your side in the transaction, this agent will not care a bit about your dispute with your landlord anyway. So it is not a big deal not to have a tenant agent.