Singapore is a big name in the global standing as one of the centre for the financial industry, classic airports, world-class architecture, and a melting pot of cultures. Its people are known to be products of successful academe which strives to rank at the top along with other prestigious schools and universities in the West. It is regarded as a country with high respect for values and has a good environment for rearing a family. However, despite its abundance in several areas, Singapore is also known to be one of the smallest countries when it comes to land area.
Singapore is measured to have a total land area of 724.2 square kilometers. Comparing it to the City of New York, it is 170 times smaller. Thus, when it comes to the occupation of land, the government imposes strict regulations. The presence of a dense population did not also help since the problem of living space comes into the picture. Sharing of living space has become the common way of living in the country. Many of its people are not owners of real property and are only attached to their landlords.
Tenancy gains popularity in this kind of situation. Tenancy is defined as the transfer of physical possession of the property by a landlord to a tenant subject to terms and conditions provided for in an agreement. In Singapore, there are two types of tenancy, one in the form of a lease and the other is thru licenses. The former refers to the priority interest over the land and allows the tenant to transfer rights to a third party. In this form of tenancy, the agreement should not be below a 6-month period. While on the other hand, license is an agreement between parties wherein there is personal permission to occupy the premises for a short period of time. It does not assign rights to a third party much less gives the right to sue against nuisance and trespass to its tenant.
A tenancy agreement is considered binding to the landlord and tenant, to which both parties are required to adhere to the terms. Control on Rent Act1 pertains only as general guidelines in the establishment of the tenancy agreement between landlords and tenants. The duties and responsibilities of each party must be aligned with the requirements of the law. It also contains the rights of the landlord and of the tenant during the occupation. Most importantly, the tenancy agreement provides for the methods of relief to which the landlord may resort in case a tenant is remiss of his duties. Since landlords are the primary person affected in the governance of tenancy, it is only right for them to be protected when they are to be punished due to the lapses of the tenant. Thus, the following are the claims for which a landlord may recover from an erring tenant.
Early Termination of Occupancy
There is a premature termination of tenancy if the landlord and tenant jointly agreed to end the occupancy of the latter before the termination agreement comes to an end. In this case, it is necessary for either party who wants to terminate the agreement early to notify the other through notice to quit. Notice to quit must be given prior to the actual early termination of the tenancy. The reckoning time in giving the notice depends on the length of the period of the tenancy or on the frequency of payment. To give an example, most of the time a 30-day period is preferred for giving the notice to quit.
However, it is not always a mutual decision that the tenancy agreement is terminated on an earlier date. Landlords will be put into a difficult situation since the income that the tenancy should have generated will be halted and the trouble of finding another tenant for a short period of time will be a difficult burden. The presence of a security deposit comes into play.
A security deposit is an amount given by the tenant to a landlord prior to occupancy which is worth a month’s pay for rent. The deposit will secure any damage or prejudice that the tenant may bring about the tenancy. Usually, security deposit answers for the early termination of the tenancy to augment the losses of the landlord. This form of additional payment must be clearly expressed in the agreement. The manner by which it may be retained and its amount must be clearly stated in order to inform the tenant and secure the right of the landlord.
Eviction of Tenants
It is usual for all agreements to come into a fallout if one of the parties commits a violative act or refuses to adhere to a duty that will compromise the other. Tenancy is no exception to this since parties may not always be in the same situation as were at the time of the initiation of the contract. Therefore, it is important for every tenancy agreement to secure the conditions pertaining to eviction as a right of recourse of a landlord from an erring tenant.
Eviction is a drastic recourse for a landlord to resort to as it means to re-possess the property from the tenant without affording the latter of a substitute living space. Hence, the right to the eviction of the tenant must be exercised by the landlord with caution and in accordance with the provided grounds under the agreement. The agreement sets out the reason for which a tenant may be evicted. The common reasons are:
1. Violation of the tenancy agreement;
2. Failure and/or delay in payment of rental dues;
3. Causing damage to property; and
4. Conducting illegal activities.
If either one of the causes established in the tenancy agreement is breached by the tenant, the landlord must send a termination notice to the tenant. Termination notice will serve as a demand to the tenant to either fulfill its duty or prohibit acts that will render the landlord in prejudice. This notice will also provide that the tenant is given a specific period of time to vacate the premises if there is a failure to comply with the demand.
In case the tenant still fails or refuses to acknowledge the termination notice, landlords are advised to seek the expertise of a solicitor. The enforcement of the termination notice must be coupled with a court order. The court order must specify that the action of the landlord in causing the eviction of the tenant is favored. If the causation of the eviction is due to non-payment of a rental fee that is worth SGD$20,000 the claim must be launched to the Small Claims Tribunal. Any other amount must be launched to the Magistrate’s Court and District Court.
The court will give the tenant the right to pay the amount of the unpaid rental fee within 4 weeks, if the cause for eviction is due to non-payment, or to file a petition to resist eviction prior to the grant of application for enforcement of the order. The grant of the enforcement order will allow the landlord to ask for the issuance of a Notice of Eviction. The Notice of Eviction will inform the tenant as to the date and time to which he is mandated to vacate and surrender the property. The execution of the service will be officiated by the court’s Sheriff.
Upon the arrival of the designated date and time of eviction, the sheriff together with the landlord will by force enter and re-possess the property. The entry will allow the sheriff to serve the notice and assess the valuables within the property. The inventory of valuables is the basis of the things that will be subjected to auction. The proceeds will be used as the additional payment for the left arrears of the tenant. The landlord should then secure the premises of the property by changing all locks and refrain the re-entrance of the tenant. It is to be noted that the cost of the process of eviction is to be burdened by the landlord alone.
Writ of Distress
In cases wherein the drastic measure of eviction is pending before the court and there is urgency on the part of the landlord to recover from the loss of income or damages incurred, the latter may opt to apply before the court a writ of distress. The writ of distress empowers the court sheriff to enjoin and seize the property of the tenant within the property and subject it to the auction. The value of the sale will be applied to the debts of the tenant. The coverage of the value of the sale will be for the claim of unpaid rent for up to 12 months and the sheriff’s fees and other expenses. The remainder will be given back to the tenant. If the tenant has abandoned the property at the time the writ is granted, it will serve as a grant for the repossession of the property. This is applicable if the tenant owes the landlord at least 2 months of rent.
The application must be filed before the court to which the application for enforcement of eviction is filed. The tenant will be given 5 days to make good on his debt otherwise the grant of the writ will be a certainty. The following properties may be subject to the writ of distress:
1. Properties at the hands of the tenant at the time of seizure;
2. Tools and implements in existence;
3. Clothes and bedding;
4. Any property relating to the tenant’s work; and
5. Any property under the custody of the law.
The court may allow the tenant to file a stoppage of the auction provided that he will submit before the court the said application together with the list of items seized. Failure to do such will allow the court to base its grant on the application of the landlord. If in case the tenant removes the items, the sheriff has the power to locate the said displaced items within 30 days and recover them.
In summary, an aggrieved landlord is given by the law the chance to recover claims against the erring tenant as provided by the remedies abovementioned. It is important to note that this will be applicable if the manner of recourse is established in the tenancy agreement. Landlords must also be guided in the proper cause against the tenant for his actions to prosper. Therefore, it is highly encouraged that landlords should seek legal aid in pursuing their actions against erring tenants.