He collects rent, then says flat not available

Over the years, I've been hearing stories from local and pinoy friends about dubious landlords. Just recently, I've spoken to a fellow pinoy who was having a problem collecting his deposit from the landlord. The following story surely tops my list, hands down.

Source: The New Paper, 8th Oct 2008
Ten angry groups confront current tenant, claiming they were cheated by landlord

Pasted on the door of a Housing Board (HDB) flat in Circuit Road were two handwritten notes.

One was by a loan shark demanding repayment of money lent.

The other, strangely enough, was written by the flat’s tenant, Ms Fong Ying.

Written in red, bold Chinese characters, her note tells prospective tenants that the landlord does not live there and that she has been renting the flat for more than a year.

What drove the Malaysian housewife to this was because, in the last three months, more than 10 groups of people had knocked on her door demanding to see her landlord, she said.

Their stories are invariably the same: They had given him money to him to rent the three-room flat. The rental rate was about $1,300.

After taking their money, he would then claim the flat was being foreclosed, or repossessed, by a bank, so he could not rent it out.

What is worse - the landlord gave some of these tenants keys to the flat, despite it being already occupied by Ms Fong.

The New Paper learnt of her situation when we visited the flat two weeks ago with one prospective tenant, Mr Surendra Utti, who claimed to have paid two months worth of rent, about $2,600, to the landlord.

We opened the main door with a key that the landlord had given Mr Surendra, only to hear a startled Ms Fong shouting that she was taking a shower.

After her shower and after regaining her composure somewhat, Ms Fong, 37, listened as Mr Surendra, 27, related his experience.

She shook her head and said in Mandarin: ‘The landlord regularly took people here to view the flat with a housing agent.

‘His excuse to me was that he was selling the place. After a while, I realised that he was trying to rent out the flat even though I am living here.

‘And every time I asked him, he would brush me aside and deny that he was renting out the place.’

She said she has changed the lock on her metal grille gate twice.

Ms Fong said that about three months ago, people visited the flat, asking for the landlord, and were surprised when she told them she had been renting the flat for about a year, and had paid more than $10,000 to extend it for another year.

Ms Fong and her husband, an engineer, pay $1,100 a month for the unit.

She said: ‘I just have to put up with this nuisance for another year because the rent is quite cheap and my husband had extended the lease. I just hope the landlord stops cheating people.’

She put up the warning note on the front door about a month ago.

She said: ‘I can’t stop him from showing tenants around. It’s his flat, after all. I have tried to speak to the potential tenants and even pass them notes to warn them.

‘Some took my warnings, but for those who don’t believe me, what can I do?’

Ms Fong claimed that about three weeks ago, her landlord was attacked by a few people outside the flat.

‘He was beaten up so badly he bled. He even tried to jump over the corridor parapet, but was dragged back. I have not seen him around since,’ she said.

She said she had told the landlord, who is divorced with a son and a daughter, to stop cheating people, but he denied doing so.

As for Mr Surendra, he thinks there is little he can do to recover his money.

The business analyst from India found the unit for rent online. He viewed the next day, signed the tenancy agreement and paid $2,600, which included a one-month deposit.

A week’s notice

Mr Surendra then left for India to get married - only to get a call from his housing agent that the unit would be foreclosed by the bank.

This happened a week before he was to move in.

Mr Surendra said: ‘It came as a rude shock because I was expecting to move into the flat with my wife when I returned from India. The agent said her hands were tied.’

He stayed with some friends and has since managed to rent another three-room HDB flat in Yishun.

Mr Surendra said the agent returned her $650 commission to him and said the landlord had promised to return the money before September.

But Mr Surendra said that he has not received any money from the landlord.

A machine operator, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, claimed the landlord owes him about $1,200 in rent deposit that he paid in May.

Mr Tan, who is in his 50s, said he was recommended by an agent, but decided not to take the flat at first because the rent was too high.

‘But the landlord offered to rent it for $1,200 when the agent left. I paid him the money and was supposed to move in a few weeks later.

‘Later, he said he couldn’t rent out the place as he was not eligible to do so. I asked for my money back but he said he didn’t have it,’ Mr Tan recounted.

He said he confronted the landlord once about the money, but his family told him to forget about it .

Mr Tan said: ‘It seems that he has his own family problems. But he can’t go around cheating people like this.’

Landlord in debt

When contacted, the landlord said he is working as a storeman to save money to pay his creditors.

He admitted having rented the flat to Mr Surendra and said he would return his money, but would not say when.

He claimed he owed loan sharks more than $10,000.

He said he also owed two groups of people money, but would gradually pay them back.

‘I already told him (Mr Surendra) I would return his money. The bank is going to repossess my flat, so I can’t rent it out anymore,’ he said.

‘I didn’t know my flat was going to be repossessed when I tried to rent it out.’

He claimed he did not know when his flat would be foreclosed by the bank.

HDB said that it received a complaint about the landlord last month and had advised the complainant to lodge a police report.

From Red Dot Pinoys:
If you have one, always use cheque for paying deposit or reservation. Don't be afraid to insist this to the agent or landlord.

According to SGHousing.com:


Subletting is private matter

The Housing Board (HDB) said it had received occasional complaints from sublet tenants.

Its advice to these tenants: Lodge a police report if they feel they have been cheated.

Alternatively, these tenants could also claim against the owner for breach of contract in the courts or the Small Claims Tribunal, depending on the quantum of the claim, HDB said.

A HDB spokesman added: ‘As the subletting of flats or rooms is a private arrangement between the flat owners and tenants, the two parties will have to settle their differences and disputes.

‘The parties involved may wish to consult their own solicitors on their rights and liabilities under the subletting agreement with each other.’

HDB advised flat owners and tenants to check, understand and agree on the terms and conditions of the rental agreement before signing it.

Tips to potential tenants:

Ask flat owner to show you a copy of HDB’s in-principle approval letter or approval letter to sublet the flat.

Ask flat owner to show documentary proof, such as Agreement for Lease, Service & Conservancy Charges or mortgage loan instalment payment booklet/annual loan statements to further verify ownership.

Include condition in tenancy agreement stating that validity of agreement is subject to HDB’s approval.

Related links:
The New PaperSGHousing.com