S'pore woman, 28, moves into Tampines flat she rented to find other tenants already staying there

Both of their rental agreements had been signed on the same day.

Daniel Seow | August 01, 2023, 04:53 PM



After signing her tenancy agreement to rent an entire Tampines flat and paying a deposit of S$6,200, a Singaporean woman was shocked to find a group of tenants already staying there on the day she moved in.

The other tenant was also recognised by HDB as an authorised occupier of the flat, under the same landlord.

Their rental agreements had even been signed on the same day, April 28.

Subsequently, the 28-year-old woman reported the case to the police, and asked her landlord to refund the deposit that she and her housemates paid.

After the incident, they only recovered S$2,000 from the landlord.

Looked for new place due to rental increase

Naseera, who works as a media planner, told Mothership that she had been renting for four years, while staying with two other housemates.

However, in April, when the rent at her current place was increased from S$2,700 to S$3,900, she decided to move elsewhere.

While looking for a more affordable place to stay, her housemate's friend came across the rental listing for a four-bedroom unit at Block 370 Tampines Street 34 on Facebook Marketplace, which was going at S$3,300 per month.

And when they met the landlord, Liza, in person and viewed the flat on April 27, the place looked like it needed some cleaning and a fresh coat of paint.

"There was no indication that anyone was staying in the place as well," Naseera shared.

Landlord offered discount, asked for two-month deposit

The first signs of trouble showed up when Naseera and her housemate signed the rental agreement the next day, with the tenancy to commence from July 1.

Liza offered them a discounted rental rate of S$3,100 if they signed a two-year contract, but they would have to fork out a two-month deposit instead.

Enticed by the deal, Naseera agreed but offered to make a partial deposit, and pay the remainder after moving in.

However, Liza pressed her on a few occasions in early-June to complete paying the entire deposit, saying that she was quoting a "super cheap" rate compared to nearby properties, and if not, she might terminate the contract.

As their lease was ending in July, less than a month later, Naseera and her housemates bit the bullet and paid the full S$6,200.

"Our initial priority [was] to have a place," she admitted.

No additional documentation provided

Two weeks before the move, the prospective tenants asked Liza for receipts for the fees that had been paid, as well as documentation which would guarantee they could stay there.

In response, the landlord asked for more time to get it ready, as she was "not feeling well".

About one week before the move, Liza also messaged Naseera, asking if they could provide an advance for the first month's rent, as she had some personal medical bills to settle.

She added that she was feeling emotional because two of her cats had recently passed away, and attached a picture of a supposedly dead cat.

The tenants, however, stood their ground and said they would pay her after moving in.

"I still trusted her [at this point], " Naseera admitted.

This was because at their first encounter, the landlord had claimed that her daughter studied at the same school as Naseera's housemate's friend, so she felt there was some form of "relatability".

Also, because she was able to view the physical unit and meet the owner in person, she was still convinced it was not a scam.

They agreed to collect the keys from Liza on June 28.

Delayed move-in

The day before they were set to collect the keys, however, Liza asked for the meeting to be pushed back by two days because the previous tenant had extended their stay, and she needed time to clean the place.

And on June 29, she asked for an extension again, citing the reason that the house was in poor condition and the air-conditioning were not working.

Though upset, Naseera negotiated with her to leave their belongings outside the unit on June 30, as it was the day their current lease expired.

"If not, we would have been homeless for a day or something," she said.

On hindsight, the reality of the situation was even worse.

When Naseera turned up with her belongings at the unit on June 30, she noticed that there was no cleaning being done, and that the house still looked lived-in.

Though she reflected these to the landlord, she was told they would "discuss it later".

The other tenants

Naseera spent the day clearing out her other items from her previous flat, but when she and her housemates returned in the evening, they discovered the ugly truth.

"The house was lit up and the door was slightly ajar, so I went into the house and there was a man there," she shared.

The men staying in the unit claimed to be the rightful tenants, and showed her their tenancy contract, which was signed on the same day as Naseera's, April 28.

And on the HDB website, one of the men was recognised as an authorised occupier of the flat.

The men added that other prospective tenants had similarly visited the flat, some with the intention of moving in.

As such, they have lodged a police report.

Retrieved S$2,000, threatened to drop case

Naseera herself reported the matter to the police, and managed to retrieve S$2,000 of what they paid Liza, by that evening.

As for the remaining amount, the landlord has attributed the delay to reasons such as her bank account being blocked, or having to wait for her salary to come in.

Over text, she also threatened to withhold the money if Naseera continues to pursue the matter with the police, or if she breaks the story to the media.

"You know what I’m not evil person to not return you but I want you to drop everything you told the police and does (sic) want to pursue. If you still don’t do I won’t return you. That’s the best I will do. And I want proof of it that you tell them it’s a miscommunication," she wrote.

As of the time of writing, none of the remaining amount has been refunded to Naseera and her housemates, and the original listing for the unit has been removed from Facebook Marketplace.

Instead, the tenants were told by Liza to bring the matter to the Small Claims Tribunal.

However, as the amount they are claiming for is less than S$20,000, Naseera says that she is facing difficulties arranging for legal action to be carried out.

Believes she's not the only victim

Stripped of a potential new home, Naseera has moved back to stay with her parents for the time being.

She has also been messaged by another alleged victim, who apparently paid Liza S$6,900 in rental fees for the same Tampines unit, but has yet to receive a single cent in return.

Additionally, on the profile page for a Facebook group, Naseera noticed a few comments alleging that Liza and another woman are in cahoots.

So, she believes she's not the only one who has paid money but did not get a place to live in.

In response to Mothership's queries, the police confirmed that a report was lodged and investigations are ongoing.

"It was a misunderstanding": Landlord

When Mothership contacted Liza for comment, she claimed that the incident was due to a "misunderstanding" between Naseera and her.

Apparently, she needed a two-day extension until July 1 to evict her previous tenants as they "did something illegal".

She also claimed that the tenants that Naseera saw are no longer staying there, and that she plans to sell the flat.

Liza also said she needs some time to refund the rest of the money, and denied being a scammer.

"If [I'm] a scammer she (Naseera) won’t even see a single cent," she added.

Landlord-tenant disputes on forfeited deposits are private matters: HDB

According to the HDB website, the statutory board will not hesitate to take enforcement action against unauthorised rentals, which include overcrowding of tenants, subletting, and usage of the flat for non-residential purposes.

However, any other disputes between tenants and flat owners, such as the rental amount, payment or forfeiture of deposits, right to terminate tenancy, and rental periods, are considered private matters between the tenant and flat owner.

"Flat owners and tenants should try to solve the dispute amicably and reach mutual agreement," the website wrote.

Top image from Naseera.