Circuit Breaker: Tenants and Landlords, here's what you need to know

Here are 5 survival tips for both tenants and landlords.
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As we enter into 'circuit breaker mode' to help fight this Coronavirus crisis together, an often neglected group are in a potentially challenging, and awkward situation of living in someone else’s home.

Are you a tenant? This could be you. And you may also be viewed as a current risk by your Landlord. Don't worry - you are definitely not the only paranoid one out there.

Or maybe you are a landlord? You might be renting out your home or a room and your steady source of income suddenly feels like a liability. What should you do?

For landlords, what’s the protocol now? How do you stay safe while keeping your rental income steady during these rough times?

Here are 5 survival tips for both tenants and landlords:

 

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#1. Minimise contact, maximise communication

Let’s start with the obvious: We all have been ordered to cut down physical contact to the bare minimum. Landlords, this means no dropping by to “spot check”! It’s not worth it to risk the health and safety of your family, and also your tenants.

But social distancing shouldn’t result in a culture of distrust. Landlords, before you reach for that CCTV app to spy on your tenant, reach out to them and communicate as much as possible.

It may be awkward in the beginning if you’re not on 'WhatsApp terms', but a simple gesture of concern can really get your tenant to open up. Don’t forget, they’re likely expatriates, far from home and their loved ones, and appreciate any support they can get.

Showing that you are understanding also allows tenants to openly report any risk of infection without fear of being evicted.

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#2. Pay the rent electronically

Tenants, just because your landlord is staying away doesn’t mean you get a free pass on paying the rent. Keep up your end of the bargain, and make sure you are all set up to pay the rent electronically.

The best way to foot the bill is through PayNow (or similar services), where you only need the recipient’s phone number. Otherwise, a regular bank transfer can be done via online banking.

Although we’re talking about a financial transaction here, do remember to be pleasant. We might be practising social distancing (physical), but social relationships (communication and trust) are more important than ever in these difficult times.

The last thing you want to do is to damage your relationship with your tenant/landlord by being demanding, evasive or curt.

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#3. Work out financial issues together

Tenants, if you are facing any financial issues — for example, if you are temporarily out of a job or have had your salary cut — it’s best to get these out in the open with your landlord as soon as possible. Don’t forget that your landlord may have financial obligations to fulfil as well.

In light of Singapore’s brewing recession, financial difficulties are almost unavoidable. But you’ve got your lines of communication open, so work out a solution together.

This may be a short-term rental discount, or some other form of relief, such as not having to pay the utility bills for a few months. It’s in everyone’s interest to work out a short-term plan to deal with financial issues. After all, few landlords will want to deal with the risk of looking for a new tenant.

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#4. If there’s a Covid-19 case, don’t panic

If you get word that your tenant is a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 case, stay calm. These things happen — they don’t call it a pandemic for nothing!

Confirmed Covid-19 cases will either be warded in a hospital or put up in a community isolation facility. Both landlords and any other tenants will be part of contact tracing and health officials will be on hand to monitor your health for at least 2 weeks.

While that is going on, engage a National Environment Agency-approved cleaning contractor to thoroughly clean and disinfect the premises according to NEA’s strict guidelines.

If the tenant is quarantined as a suspected case, they can stay in their room and avoid contact with anyone else in the apartment during the 14-day period. Should that be unfeasible, they may appeal to the Ministry of Health to be placed in a government quarantine facility.

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#5. Above all else, respect the Law

The Covid-19 is no laughing matter and we all need to be extra careful during this period to follow the regulations to a T. There are stiff penalties if you break them, and the government is not shy about enforcing these.

First, landlords should be aware that you are NOT allowed to evict tenants on home quarantine order. This is regarded as a serious breach of healthcare protocol as it endangers the public, and you may be barred from renting your property in the future.

Tenants who are under home quarantine, or issued with a Stay Home Notice, must NOT leave the house during the period. Otherwise, you can face a fine of up to $10,000 or jailed up to 6 months, or both.

If you are not a Singapore citizen, you may also have your work pass, long-term visit, dependant’s or student’s pass revoked. Even PRs may lose their status if they breach the rules.

Most importantly, #staysafe and #stayhome.

 

This article was written by Mary Wu, who hopes to share what she's learnt from her home-buying and renovation journey with PropertyGuru readers. When she's not writing, she's usually baking up a storm or checking out a new cafe in town

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