Racial harmony is one of the many tenets that form the bedrock of Singapore’s peaceful, united society. Despite all the good, long-standing work individuals and institutions have put into building and maintaining racial harmony, discrimination still exists here.
According to a YouGov survey, one in four Singaporeans has faced racial discrimination when attempting to rent a property. Discrimination in the form of landlords choosing tenants based on their race, ethnicity, and/or nationality is one of the more commonly reported occurrences.
The topic of racial discrimination in the property market is not new. But PropertyGuru would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our stance: We do not condone discrimination of any form and hence we actively invest to avoid it from affecting our users.
Here is how we are doing our part to reduce, and hopefully remove, barriers for affected groups of people in Singapore.
PropertyGuru’s Stance Against Racial Discrimination in the Property Market
PropertyGuru has a zero-tolerance policy for racial discrimination in any form. Not only is this reflected in the way we work as a company, but also in the active measures we take in combatting discrimination on our site listings.
As succinctly put by Dr. Tan Tee Khoon, Country Manager, PropertyGuru Singapore:
“At PropertyGuru – diversity is at the core of who we are. With Gurus (our employees) spanning 30 nationalities – we’ve always been driven by our belief that everyone deserves a place to call home. We strongly believe that all renters and buyers must be welcome, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or any other identity markers.”
We do not condone discrimination of any form. Discrimination, however, does exist in our society and hence we actively invest to avoid it from affecting our users. Firstly, our guidelines and terms and conditions clearly prohibit agents from indicating race or ethnic preferences or any kind of other biases, while creating their listing. In addition, we actively moderate listings. On the back end, regular checks are run to scrutinise any discriminatory preference indications. If any is found, the listing is immediately suspended. Our Moderation Team then reaches out to the agent to work with him/her to amend the listing.
Education remains at the core of the solution to stop discrimination. To this effect – we also proactively engage with agents in all our markets through regular training sessions, seminars, and workshops. In Singapore, we often take the opportunity to remind the agent community about regulations against discriminatory advertising, as set out by The Council of Estate Agencies and best practices in property advertising.
As Southeast Asia’s market leader, it is our responsibility to lead the solutions and we hope that these continuous and ongoing efforts will contribute towards creating a welcoming environment for all, so that everyone – regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, physical ability, and sexual orientation – is well-supported on their journey to find a home."
Discrimination in Singapore: PropertyGuru’s Discrimination Prevention Efforts
As part of our efforts to eradicate discriminatory practices in the real estate market, we have a multi-prong approach in place. They are:
- Automated keyword screening that detects and removes unethical advertisements
- Continuous monitoring by human moderators
- Education material when training and onboarding agents
We have implemented an automated keyword screening feature that detects and rejects discriminatory language prior to the publication of a listing. All property listings specifying racial preferences or exclusions are removed once detected.
We also conduct continuous moderation to identify and remove discriminatory listings. Our moderators remove publications that participate in discriminatory practices and otherwise unethical advertising and marketing tactics, including deceptive or misleading advertisements.
To ensure that all publications are in line with our guidelines and terms and conditions, we encourage all PropertyGuru users to read our Acceptable Use Policy before submitting a listing.
We believe education is the key to eradicating racial discrimination. Hence, in all our agent onboarding, training, and other courses, we strive to include educational materials against discrimination.
Report a Listing on PropertyGuru: What to Do If You See Discriminatory Language on a Listing
If you are browsing listings on the PropertyGuru website and come across a listing that is discriminatory, or encounter any instance of discrimination, you can report the listing and PropertyGuru will look into the matter. This works for both rental and sale listings.
Under the column to contact agents, on the right-hand side of the page, there is a ‘Report Listing’ option you can select.
Upon clicking the ‘Report Listing’ button, you will be prompted with the form below:
All you have to do is fill the form up and click ‘Submit’. We will then look into the matter and address it as soon as possible.
Racial Policies for Housing in Singapore
Understanding the HDB EIP and SPR Quota
The HDB Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) maintains fixed ethnic proportion ranges by imposing limits on the percentage of each ethnic group that can occupy a block or neighbourhood. HDB does not publish the exact EIP proportions.
The SPR Quota puts a cap on the percentage of non-Malaysian Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) households in each block and neighbourhood. The SPR quota is currently 5% per neighbourhood and 8% per block.
The EIP and SPR influence whether a household can buy an HDB flat in a particular block or neighbourhood, as well as to whom a flat can be resold to. Ostensibly, these policies are not meant to be discriminatory but to promote cohesion by preventing the formation of enclaves.
Flat buyers can use the HDB’s e-Service to check if the EIP and SPR quota affects their eligibility to buy an HDB resale flat in a particular block or neighbourhood.
The EIP and SPR are, understandably, controversial policies. EIP-affected sellers often take a year longer to sell their properties and at a lower price. In light of the challenges faced by these individuals, moves have been made by the Singapore government to promote greater equality in housing-related matters.
On 8 March 2022, it was announced that the HDB will now buy back flats from sellers facing genuine difficulties caused by the EIP. While it is only a small percentage of people are affected by the HDB EIP, this change is significant; it signals that no matter how small the affected group is, they matter too and are heard.
CEA’s Advertising Guidelines for Estate Agents and Salespersons
Real estate agents must abide by any regulations which apply to them as well as any guidelines issued by the Council of Estate Agencies (CEA). Non-compliance may result in disciplinary action.
CEA’s Practice Guidelines on Ethical Advertising apply to any promotional publicity and advertisements put up by real estate agents and salespersons. These include publications, online listings or postings, classified ads, pamphlets, SMSes, social media publications and any other form of online advertising. Therefore, listings on PropertyGuru fall under the ambit of the guidelines.
The guidelines set out the do’s and don’ts of advertising, as well as flesh out what is acceptable content. For instance, it is prohibited to indicate any preference for race or religion in all advertisements unless it is for the purposes of complying with the EIP.
Real estate agents and salespersons must also comply with the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice, which indicates content that is off-limits. For instance, advertisements should not discriminate against any ethnic group or religion.
Landlords and Agents: How Should You Advertise Your Property Listing?
If you are a property owner looking to rent out your property or an agent putting up a listing, here are some things to take note of:
- You should not single out a race or nationality in your listing. For instance, avoid saying that you prefer a certain race or nationality, or that people of a particular race or nationality will not be considered.
- You can include general house rules or rules governing the use of the property so long as they are not targeted at a particular group. For instance, rules like “no heavy cooking allowed”, “no sub-dividing unit permitted”, or “max occupants of unit = X” are acceptable.
- Feel free to mention in your listing that you do not participate in discriminatory practices and accept applicants of all races and religions.
Renting Property in Singapore: What Can You Do As a Tenant?
For those who are looking to rent, here are some tips to ensure you are treated fairly as a tenant:
Before Signing Your Rental Agreement
You should know which clauses to look at closely before signing your rental agreement. Some things to pay special attention to include:
- Checking to what extent you are liable for maintenance and repair. Also, there should be a clause giving you the right to recovery of damages if the landlord does not uphold his or her responsibility to undertake repairs.
- Ensuring there is a clause stating that you need not pay damages arising from reasonable usage, normal ageing or reasonable wear and tear of the property. Ideally, what constitutes as what reasonable wear and tear should be clearly defined in the contract (e.g. minor scratches).
- Being sure you are fine with the house rules before signing the contract. This includes rules about cooking, inviting guests over, and having access to the common areas (e.g. kitchen, living room).
- Protecting your privacy by having a clause that stipulates that the landlord must first obtain your permission before entering the property, except in certain exceptional cases.
- Understanding your liabilities if you or the landlord terminate the contract early. Know how much notice you or your landlord must give, and what penalties (if any) you might have to pay. If you are a foreigner, ensure there is a diplomatic clause that enables you to break the rental agreement in certain situations, such as if your work pass is revoked and you are forced to return home.
If there is any doubt, have the landlord include further details in the contract before you sign it. If the rules are not acceptable, negotiate with the landlord or look elsewhere.
After Signing Your Rental Agreement and Moving In
- On the day you move in, take clear, detailed and extensive photos and videos of the property, making sure to capture any defects. When you vacate the property at the end of your stay, you can, if need be, use them as evidence that these defects were not caused by you.
- Know the procedure to report issues to the landlord if the property gets damaged, as well as the timelines (if any) within which the landlord must undertake repairs that he or she is responsible for.
When Moving Out
- When you vacate the property, to avoid being overcharged, it is advisable to undertake any necessary repairs on your own rather than have the landlord handle them.
- In the event of a dispute with your landlord, you can turn to the Small Claims Tribunal, which aims to help settle disputes without hefty legal fees.
To reiterate, we believe everyone deserves a place to call home and will not tolerate discrimination of any form. If you experience discrimination from our agent partners, please report it to us so that we can work with them accordingly.
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