Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rental Scams In Singapore

Singapore may have low crime rate but this does not mean it has no crime at all. There are some people who execute scams. Today, we will cover the common rental scams executed in Singapore targeting foreigners. There are some simple steps to avoid them and avoiding them can save you a small fortune.

Before going into these rental scams I would like to list 2 steps you should always execute before going into a rental agreement:

1) If you are a foreigner, unless you know what you are doing, always worked through a registered property agent. A registered property agent means an agent with valid CEA license.

2) Check the validity of property agent's CEA (Council for Estate Agencies) license number. Since October 2010, any person/company carrying out estate agency work in Singapore, either for local or foreign properties, are required to obtain a CEA licence from the Council for Estate Agencies. Conducting estate agency work without a valid licence or registration is an offence in Singapore since January 2011. Here is the link to check it online. Be sure that the name, photo match with the agent you see and also the license is not expired.

Now the scams.

Fake Landlord - Overseas landlord

This scam is usually executed like this:
1 - The conman, with a fake name, fake address has units or rooms for rent with a good price.
2 - You are that very very lucky guy who had this great chance to know about this super deal.
3 - The conman cannot meet you or let you view the unit because he does not live in Singapore.
4 - He exchanges mails with you. Sends a contract to be signed, photos of the unit, etc.

5 - Then he requests you to wire a deposit or one month rent.
6 - Next he disappears.

How to avoid? Do not ask me. This is a variation of Nigerian email scam, you can avoid it simply by common sense.

Fake Landlord - You see him, but he is still fake.

Yes, this is possible. Take a look at here for an example: Fake Landlord Cheats Expat Of $1,400. A conman with access to a flat. He may be a bankrupt landlord who previously owned the property, he may be a tenant posing as a landlord, he may be a relative of the landlord or he may simply be someone who broke in an empty flat. In this case for example, landlord is a bankrupt: She Pays Hundreds Of Dollars To Fake Landlord

How to avoid? Always work with a licensed property agent. He/she will cost you extra money and will be more interested in the money he/she will make than getting you a good discount. But at least a licensed property agent will ensure things are legal.

One Room Locked
This is actually not targetting you but HDB. Still it may end you up on the street and cost you a lot.

There are 2 types of housing in Singapore: Public housing and private housing. Public houses are called HDB after the government agency building and maintaining them: Housing Development Board. HDB houses have some restriction on renting and selling them. An owner of HDB flat can rent the whole unit out to a foreigner only if he gets an approval from Housing Development Board. But some owners without a valid approval still rents their units out with a common trick called "one room locked/1 room locked".

This room is rarely locked because the landlord needs an extra storage space. They lock a room and claim that they live in it. So in theory they are not renting you the whole unit but renting you some rooms, which is legal. But in fact it is illegal renting out an unapproved flat. Although as a tenant you may well live throughout your rental period without any problem in a unit like this but if you are caught, you need to vacant the unit immediately which would cost you a lot. Do not go into these kind of illegal rental and be sure that the unit is approved to be rented out.

How to avoid? These units are usually openly advertised so staying away from them is easy. If you are not sure about the legality of the public housing rent, check the flat with Housing Development Board and request to see the valid paper work before signing anything.

Advanced Payment
This is not necessarily a scam but I have seen enough people burnt so I strongly advice against it. Always pay 1 month rent + 1 month rent as deposit for 1 year lease (2 month rent as deposit for 2 years lease) avoid paying X months in advance. This is the legal practice.

Some people think, if the landlord gets your money and disappears it is still easy to find him in a tiny nation like this. Believe me it is more difficult than you can imagine.

How to avoid? Simply do not go into if you do not know the person.

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