3 Ways to Prevent Illegal Subletting, Landlords Take Note!

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Here is a typical scenario of illegal subletting: You, a landlord, are checking up on a tenant, i.e. the nice chap who rented your apartment a few months ago. Upon arriving, however, you’re greeted by a complete stranger, and your apartment is cluttered with partitions and people you don’t recognise! Worse still, the tenant you leased the apartment to is nowhere to be found. 

Illegal subletting is when your tenant decides to sublet (i.e. rent out) the space to a subtenant without your knowledge. Subletting is also strictly not allowed within HDB flats. 

Suspect you're a victim of a rogue tenant? Don't fret: In this article, we'll cover the best ways to deal with tenants who illegally sublet your home, and three ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

Contents  

 

What is illegal subletting?

  • Subletting is the practice of a main tenant renting out part or all of the property to another tenant, who then becomes the subtenant
  • Illegal subletting is when this is done without the knowledge and consent of the main landlord 
  • In Singapore, subletting is not allowed in HDB flats (i.e. all subletting in HDB flats are illegal) 

There are various reasons tenants may want to sublet - perhaps they need to be away for a length of time, but would still like to secure the apartment. Illegal subletting is a sublet that is not approved by the landlord.

In Singapore, if the tenant is renting an HDB apartment, HDB’s rules state that the flat-owner must ensure that the flat is not further sublet to others.

Private properties are not subject to the same protections and laws as HDB apartments, so the responsibility falls on the homeowner to ensure their tenants don’t engage in illegal subletting.

 

How to prevent illegal subletting

  1. Meet your tenants 
  2. Ensure everyone is clear about the tenancy contract
  3. Conduct regular checks, including surprise visits

Let's go through each one in detail: 

1. Meet your tenants

Although it’s the responsibility of property agents to verify the tenants’ paperwork, a landlord should still vet their potential tenants personally - at least during the handover of the keys. This is important because getting to know your tenants helps foster a better landlord-tenant relationship. It also lets you familiarize yourself with them, and it will become easier to notice if there are “newcomers” to your property.

During the meeting, remind the main tenant that subletting is not part of the lease agreement.

2. Ensure everyone is clear about the tenancy contract

Before anything is signed, make sure everyone (yourself included) is crystal clear about the terms and clauses of the lease agreement, as well as the rules related to Singapore’s rental market.

The contract should also list the full names and details of all authorized tenants and state explicitly that no one else can reside on the property without consent. In addition, it should state clearly that tenants are not allowed to sublet without your knowledge and permission.

3. Conduct regular checks, including surprise visits

Schedule regular check-ins with your tenants. This allows you to monitor your property. It also increases the likelihood of the property being well-maintained. It also serves as a means for you to keep tabs on whether there are any unauthorized parties living in the property. On occasion, surprise visits or visits on very short notice can reveal tell-tale signs of illegal subletting. This is especially if your main tenant has been reluctant to let you visit, or has elaborate excuses.

Some signs include:

  • Lots of slippers and shoes outside the house
  • The locks have been replaced
  • More toiletries, utensils or clothes than is normal
  • Partitions or furniture replaced by bunk beds

During your scheduled visits, if you always notice the same group of people who aren’t your tenants loitering near the property, it could also be a sign.

 

What to do if illegal subletting happens

Despite these measures, tenants may still flout the law. In the event that happens, here are some ways you can protect yourself.

1. Assess the situation first

Make sure that illegal subletting is actually happening. The occupants inside the property should match the ones on the tenancy agreement. Fact-check these findings with the master tenant and your housing agent.

2. Gather evidence

Prepare all supporting documents, such as updated tenant contacts, property and income tax statements, photocopies of the lease agreements, and photos of the property that show signs of more occupants than is listed on the lease.

3. Resolve the issue

In serious cases, you can decide to immediately evict the tenant and sub-tenants, but there are also other methods of resolution such as mediation. If you decide to conduct negotiations with your tenants, be firm and emphasize the seriousness of the issue. Also, highlight the legal consequences should they or the sub-tenants refuse to leave. Make clear the course of action you intend to pursue in your capacity as a landlord.

Also read: Small Claims Tribunals: How It Can Help Tenants and Landlords Settle Rental Disputes

 

More FAQs on illegal subletting in Singapore

Is subletting illegal in Singapore?

Subletting is illegal in Singapore if done 1) within a HDB flat and/or 2) without the homeowner's knowledge. It is also illegal if there is clause to restrict subletting in the Tenancy Agreement, which is legally binding. 

Is AirBnB considered illegal subletting?

AirBnB is considered illegal short-term rental. If you are not the homeowner (i.e. you're a tenant), and you sneakily let tourists/foreigners stay in the property, it is illegal subletting too.

If the tenant illegally sublets your home, will you be penalised?

Unfortunately yes. The authorities will hold you responsible if your tenants break any rules. Hence, it's important you ensure your tenants aren’t doing anything illegal, such as subletting rooms out to others without your knowledge. 

 

For more useful guides like this, check out PropertyGuru. Or find a rental home on PropertyGuru now.

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