Should the Tenant Pay Rent During Service Days for Post Tenancy Repairs?

March 29, 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of Singapore's rental market, a question that often arises and stirs considerable debate among tenants and landlords alike is: Should tenants continue to pay rent during service days if they have agreed to undertake repair or painting works after moving out? This nuanced issue highlights the diverse perspectives of tenants and landlords and demands a careful examination of the standpoints of both parties, legal obligations, and potential resolutions to strike a balance that upholds fairness and accountability. Given Singapore's prominent position as a preferred destination for expatriates and the vibrancy of its housing market we need to dissect this debate as it is essential for maintaining a sense of harmony, fairness, and transparency in rental agreements. So, let’s get at it.

But First, Let Us Understand the Core of the Controversy

This debate around paying rent centres on balancing responsibilities and financial contributions for maintaining rental property conditions. The ambiguity or lack of specificity in lease agreements concerning service days and post-tenancy repairs regardless of whether it is for housing rentals or office rentals exacerbates this issue. The rental agreement is a crucial document that typically outlines the duties of each party, yet the specifics regarding service days and post-tenancy repairs can sometimes be ambiguous or entirely unaddressed. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore, the rental market has shown steady growth and this further highlights the need for clear regulations and understandings in such agreements to manage such disputes effectively.

The Tenant's Perspective – A Call for Equity

Tenants argue that if they invest time and resources into repairing or painting the property post-tenancy, this contribution should be recognised financially, potentially through a rent waiver during service days. They often feel that their contributions to the upkeep and improvement of the property go beyond the expected wear and tear, and this extra mile taken should be recognised in a tangible way.

They also argue that by investing in the maintenance and enhancement of the property, they are indirectly contributing to the landlord's asset value, and that it could command higher rent in future lease agreements. Their perspective is that tenant-initiated improvements before leaving can lead to a notable increase in a property's attractiveness and market value too. This approach not only fosters a sense of fairness but also encourages tenants to maintain and leave the property in good condition, which is ultimately beneficial for both parties. It underscores the need for open communication and clear agreements between tenants and landlords to address and formalise such contributions and compensations.

Landlord's Stance – Upholding Contractual Agreements

On the other hand, landlords emphasise the sanctity of the lease agreement, which typically mandates that tenants pay rent for the duration of their occupancy—including any service days—if not explicitly stated otherwise. They argue that property maintenance and repairs are inherent responsibilities of owning a rental property, and these should not affect the rental payment obligations of tenants.  

Evicting tenants and collecting unpaid rent are serious matters in Singapore. The process involves legal steps and adherence to specific terms outlined in the tenancy agreement, such as serving a formal demand for eviction and possibly applying for a court order. Landlords have the right to apply for a writ of distress under the Distress Act to claim unpaid rent, and this emphasises the importance of acting swiftly in such situations.

Legal Framework and Protections

Singapore's rental laws provide a framework within which these disputes can be navigated. Tenants are generally required to return the property in the condition it was rented, barring normal wear and tear. However, it also mandates that landlords ensure the property is habitable and safe, which includes timely repairs and maintenance​​​​. The Housing and Development Board (HDB) provides guidelines and regulations on renting out a flat in Singapore too.  

Mitigating Disputes – A Collaborative Approach

The key to preventing disputes lies in clear communication and comprehensive lease agreements. These documents should explicitly state the conditions regarding repairs, service days, and the implications on rent during such periods. Case studies from the Singapore Mediation Centre illustrate how open dialogue and pre-emptive agreements can effectively prevent misunderstandings and conflicts. These include instances such as a three-year shareholder conflict resolved in half a day, and a case where mediation helped restore the relationship between a surgeon and a patient involved in a healthcare dispute.  

Case-by-Case Considerations

Given the uniqueness of each rental scenario, a one-size-fits-all approach is impractical. Factors such as the extent of required repairs, the property's initial condition, and the tenancy's duration play critical roles in determining the fairness of rent payments during service days. The Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers (SISV) provides guidelines on assessing property conditions, which can be instrumental in such deliberations. It offers a comprehensive Real Estate Agency Course (REAC) through its Valuation and General Practice Division, which outlines detailed guidelines and standards for property and land valuation within the real estate sector. This course encompasses a wide range of topics essential for assessing property conditions and real estate valuations, structured into various core modules.

One of the core modules, "Law of Real Property," covers legal aspects of real estate, including legal descriptions, interpreting plans, boundaries, tenure, and interests in land. Another vital module, "Law of Landlord and Tenant," offers an in-depth exploration of lease agreements and licences, distinguishing between different types of leases and elaborating on the process of lease creation. This module also examines the nuanced relationship between landlords and tenants, and it sheds light on the rights, duties, and legal implications for both parties involved in property rental agreements. On top of that, it also covers the significance of fixtures and fittings within leased properties, which can often be a point of contention or misunderstanding in landlord-tenant relationships.

Seeking Legal Advice

Mediation or legal consultation becomes essential when disputes arise. Singapore's legal framework—including institutions like the Small Claims Tribunal and various mediation services—offers avenues for impartial resolution. This ensures that the rights and obligations of all parties are respected and upheld.

A Balancing Act – Striving for Fair Solutions for Both Parties

The ongoing debate in Singapore regarding rent payments during service days for post-tenancy repairs underscores the broader challenges within the rental market. It touches on themes of fairness, responsibility, and collaboration. Both tenants and landlords can navigate these complexities and ensure a balanced and positive rental experience by fostering transparent communication, customising lease agreements, and appreciating compromise. It also ensures that the rental market remains attractive and equitable for both local residents and the international community — this will maintain Singapore’s reputation as a place of harmonious and transparent rental transactions.