Beware the Unexpected Costs of Being a Landlord in Singapore

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 24 March, 2017

Before becoming a landlord in Singapore, consider these 4 ways you could incur additional expenses.

If you have a spare room or two, subletting is a good way generate some additional household income. Rather than letting your unused bedrooms devolve into glorified walk-in closets, rent them out to help subsidise your mortgage. After all, why pay for the entire flat when you’re really using only half of it?

However, there are financial risks that come with renting out your spare bedrooms, which often arise from mismatched expectations, miscommunication, or just plain ignorance. Here are some unexpected ways being a landlord can cost you money.

See Also: Should You Become a Landlord in Singapore?

You May Need To Spend On Storage

Before you put up your spare bedroom for rental, you may want to take a look at your storeroom. Go in there and spend some time familiarising yourself with the walls, because you may never see them again.

When you sublet your room, you need to consider how much stuff your tenant is allowed to bring with them. Everything seems fine and dandy, until the day they show up at your front door with what seems like the entire inventory of the neighbourhood flea market.

Tenants are not tourists - they’re here for the long term, which also means they will have some semblance of a life. With life comes needs and wants. With no universal standard on how much stuff each person should have, you could find yourself dealing with a storage problem.

At the very least, this could mean that your storeroom will be filled to the brim with other people’s stuff, leaving you little to no space for your own things. If your unit does not have a storeroom, you may be forced to carve out precious space from your living room to build one.

The solution would be to limit the belongings your tenant is allowed to bring. However this might cut down your pool of potential tenants, or make it impossible for you to put up two tenants in one room and charge a higher rental.

But, if you neglect to have this discussion before agreeing to rent, you may find yourself having to spend money on renovations or self-service storage solutions later on.

You May Need to Rewire Your Home

Some days, your tenant may have a hankering for toast. Other days, for homemade herbal tea. And perhaps every Sunday morning, a taste for home-brewed soybean milk. Each of which requires a toaster, a soup pot, and some sort of mechanised bean extractor/steamer respectively to prepare. (That last thing is totally a thing, we swear.)

Now, we don’t need to tell you how dangerous overloading an electrical socket is. And having snaking lines of power strips running all over the place isn’t any safer either. So it seems like your choices are limited to either electrocution or blunt-force trauma.

You could institute a strict no-cooking rule, forcing your tenants to sneakily cook cup noodles in their rooms in the dead of the night. Or, you might allow your tenants to use the kitchen, so they at least don’t foul up their room and attract pests with cooking odours and food waste.

No matter which you choose, you may suddenly find yourself tiptoeing around overtaxed power outlets. Hence, if you’re planning on having tenants, it might be worthwhile to put in a few more electrical sockets at sensible locations during your renovations. This will save you money on a second round of electrical works later down the road.

You May Find Yourself Saddled With Nonsense Payments

As the landlord - aka the owner of the property - you are liable for any damage to the common amenities, such as if the central refuse chute gets choked with bulky rubbish. If any illegal dumping or high-rise littering is traced to your unit, guess who the Town Council or HDB will come after.

There’s always the chance that your tenant could have antisocial tendencies and willfully cause such problems. If that’s the case, the only way out would be to terminate the rental agreement and get another (hopefully better socialised) tenant.

However, most such occurrences happen out of ignorance or miscommunication. It might be worthwhile to cultivate good relationships and open communication with your tenants. That way, they will feel comfortable enough to ask your advice on how to dispose of bulky items or to ask for certain amenities they may otherwise feel embarrassed about.

A little communication goes a long way in establishing a pleasant living environment for all. It could also very well save you from paying unnecessary fines.

You May Need to Replace Your Appliances Sooner Than Expected

Some landlords have an irrational fear that their tenants regress into cavemen/women when no one is looking. When it comes to necessities such as the air conditioner, washing machine, dryer, and fridge, they decide to buy the cheapest model available. Their thinking goes that their tenants won’t take care of the appliances, so there’s no point spending money on quality products.

That might be a mistake. Cheaper appliances are not only likely to have lower efficiency (which costs you more in electricity and water bills), they might also break down sooner. Contrary to popular belief, this is not because of repeated banging by brutish cavemen fists, but simply because they are of poorer quality.

With more people living in the house, your appliances will also see higher usage. This means that appliance breakdowns will happen at a faster rate. When a necessity breaks down, the onus is on you, the landlord, to remedy the problem. Needless to say, your wallet will take a beating, either by way of repairs, or straight-up replacements.

Instead, try showing your tenants how to use the appliances you will be sharing. Keeping the instruction manuals nearby will also be helpful. And if you’re still afraid that your new and expensive washing machine will be somehow savaged, make sure you spell out to your tenants that their security deposit (customarily 1 to 2 months’ rent) will be used for any repairs deemed necessary.

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Read This Next:

4 Ways to Make Extra Money Off Your Flat (Besides Finding Tenants)

What Happens If You Can't Afford to Make Your Mortgage Payments?

Alevin ChanBy Alevin Chan

A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.

An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


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