It’s 2023 and more people are choosing to rent instead of owning a property. Times have changed; young Singaporeans are emboldened to move out of home due to a lack of privacy at home and heightened proximity to their parents during the pandemic. Having your space and making a home no longer equates to homeownership. Most are perfectly comfortable renting a home, some with their significant others and some with their friends. Or, you know, with pets.
If that sounds like you, here’s a guide on the steps you need to do, the documents to keep handy and the fees you will need to pay:
- Check your eligibility
- Start your home search
- Arrange viewings and conduct negotiations
- Submit LOI and good faith deposit
- Prepare rental documents
- Pay deposit and stamp duty
Step-by-step guide to rent an HDB
Step 1: Check your eligibility
Before all else, you need to know if you are eligible to rent an HDB flat. If you are a non-Malaysian non-citizen (Singapore Permanent Resident or foreigner), such as a Filipino, Indonesian, or other nationalities, you will have to consider the Non-Citizen Quota. If the quota is reached, you can only rent out the flat to Singaporeans and Malaysians.
Here is the HDB non-Malaysian non-citizen quota per neighbourhood and block:
If the quota is reached, the landlord can only rent out the flat to Singaporeans and Malaysians.
Here’s the full list of those who are eligible to rent a flat in Singapore:
- Singapore citizens
- Singapore Permanent Residents
- Non-citizens who are legally residing in Singapore who are holders of Employment Passes, S Passes, Work Permits, Student Passes, Dependant Passes, or Long-Term Social Visit (LTSV) Passes. These passes must have a validity period of at least 6 months as at the date of application
Note that work permit holders from the construction, manufacturing, marine, and process sectors must be Malaysians. Tourists are not allowed as tenants of HDB flats.
Step 2: Start your home search
Now the fun begins! Find your perfect home on the Ohmyhome app where, once you log in, you’ll find all the available listings immediately — either from direct owners or those verified by our property agents.
There are no duplicate listings here as each address can only be used once.
Begin your search by inputting an address, MRT station, nearby school, budget or number of rooms.
However, if you’d like to skip (what may seem like) endless hours of scrolling and searching for a rental home, you can let our data-matching technology find the perfect match for you. Simply input your preferences here — from location to budget — and our algorithm will scour through our comprehensive database of listings. Then we’ll send the listings that match your preferences directly to you.
Step 3: Arrange viewings and conduct negotiations
Once you have shortlisted three to five HDB flats, contact the agents or the landlords whose details should be in the listings and ask questions about the property. To make appointments or enquiries with the landlords or our agents on the Ohmyhome app, simply click the ‘Chat’ button below each listing. This is also the time too to ask for a virtual tour of the units or schedule an in-person viewing.
This step may have to be repeated over and over until you find a unit that you really like. Before signing anything, however, verify first that the property agent representing the landlord is registered.
Here are four ways to ensure the agent has a valid Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) licence:
- Go to CEA‘s official website
- Click on “Check if your agent is registered“
- Enter his or her name or registration number (you can find this on his/her business card or ID nametag)
- Click on “Search”
Step 4: Submit Letter of Intent (LOI) and good faith deposit
Found a flat you love? Time to secure it by submitting an LOI and good faith deposit to the landlord or his/her property agent.
The LOI should be addressed to the landlord and states your intentions to enter a Tenancy Agreement (TA). Sending this to the landlord means that they would have to stop advertising the unit for rent, essentially preventing other would-be tenants from viewing the property.
Some important items to note in the LOI:
- Reservation fee – This is also known as a “good faith deposit”. This will ensure that your landlord stops looking for other prospective tenants for his property. Later on, this deposit will become part of your advance rental fee for the first month of rent.
- Good faith deposit – It typically refers to 1 month’s rent for a 1-year lease or 2-year lease, to be paid with the issuance of LOI. The good faith deposit can also be converted to the 1st month’s rent. Do note, though, that if the landlord rejects the LOI, he/she must return the good faith deposit to you.
To ensure a smooth handover at the end of your stay, make sure that the unit is clean and in tip-top shape. Do note that the security deposit cannot be used to offset the last month’s rent should you choose not to renew the lease.
- Term of lease – Usually, the rental period in Singapore is 12 months or 24 months and the TA should state the agreed length of stay. About two or three months prior to the end of the lease, make sure to inform your landlord or his agent your intention to stay on or leave.
Take note: The minimum tenancy period for HDB flats in Singapore is six months. Short-term rental in Singapore is illegal.
- Requests and requirements – Your LOI is the perfect vehicle for you to specify all your requests and requirements prior to renting the property.
This would include requests for new appliances and replacement of old furniture and fixtures.
Negotiate these requests with your landlord and get agreement before he or she signs your LOI.
- Diplomatic Clause – This clause allows you to terminate the tenancy early without heavy penalty in case you have to leave Singapore due to the loss of a job or a transfer out of Singapore.
Other clauses to pay close attention to include those that pertain to maintenance and repair costs, your right to privacy, as well as permitted access by the landlord, among others.
Give the LOI directly to the landlord or to the property agent. Then schedule another meeting before the handover.
Step 5: Prepare rental documents
After accepting the LOI, the landlord will issue the tenancy agreement (TA). This agreement will be drafted and prepared for you by your property agent, or the landlord or his agent. You and the landlord will have 7 days to sign it.
Your TA will be based on your LOI, so make sure to check every detail mentioned there, including the inventory list. This is important to check through, especially the contract terms, as it will be referred to in the event of a dispute.
The other documents you may need to prepare include:
- Photocopy and original Singapore NRIC, Student Pass, LTSV Pass, Dependant Pass, Work Permit, S Pass or Employment Pass
- Photocopy and original foreign passport
- Budget for one-month advance rental fee, security deposit, tenant stamp duty and Public Utilities Board (PUB) deposit
- Local contact number and email so that the property agent and/or your future landlord may contact you
Step 6: Pay deposit and stamp duty
You will also need to pay the stamp duty within 14 days from the date of the TA. The stamp duty is a tax on dutiable documents relating to immovable properties in Singapore, as well as stocks and shares.
The next step is a home inspection with the landlord or his agent to make sure everything is in good order.
If everything checks out, you can now apply for utilities to be switched on or transferred to your name if the account is still linked to the previous tenant or the landlord’s. Once all these are done, you can now start the process of moving in.
There is no need to pay your agent’s service fee in advance as this is only due upon completion of the whole process. If you did not hire an agent to help you in your house hunt, then you save on this cost.
Your landlord’s property agent will not accept cash for the first month’s rental and deposit, so just pass him or her a check for it or transfer the sum directly to the landlord’s account. CEA has more reminders in this video.
Looking to rent an HDB or private property? Here’s how you can speed up your home search
Let Ohmyhome’s smart data-matching technology MATCH you with the right home, according to your specific needs. Submit your preferences to us and our algorithm will filter all our available listings based on those, and we’ll WhatsApp them to you once we find a match. We’ll also send you relevant content that you can use for your research and inform your home buying decision, so you no longer have to spend hours searching online for the information that you need.
You can also call us at 6886 9009 to secure an appointment with any of our Super Agents or message us in the chatbox at the bottom, right-hand corner of the screen. You can also WhatsApp us at 9755 1009!
Frequently asked questions
Can Singapore Permanent Resident flat owners rent out their units?
No. Only citizens who have fulfilled the Minimum Occupation Period can rent out their flats.
Can a foreign student rent an HDB flat?
Yes, a non-citizen residing legally in Singapore who is a holder of a Student Pass can rent an HDB flat. Just note that the pass must have a validity period of at least six months as of the date of application.
How many tenants are allowed in a rental HDB flat?
For 1-room and 2-room flats, the maximum number of tenants allowed in each flat is 4. For 3-room and bigger flats, it is 6.