Saturday, February 28, 2015


Count yourself one in a million if you have a tenant who leaves your property in better condition than when he first moved in with his family. My daughter had one such heaven-sent tenant a few years ago. The rest were from hell or some place close to it. The latter can literally drive you up the wall - whatever is left of it.

Some tenants who leave with a grudge are capable of wrecking your property out of spite. One of my friends had her kitchen walls smeared with faeces by the tenant who also left her with a stack of unpaid utility bills. (Photo: Daily Telegraph)

Heaven-sent tenants in my book are those that:
  • pay the rent on time
  • help to maintain your property in good condition
  • pay out of their pockets for extra fittings
  • handle minor repairs on their own 
  • seldom hassle you with endless complaints 
  • do not make unreasonable demands 
  • do not sub-let your apartment
  • do not use your property for purposes other than as a residence

When it comes to finding good tenants, it boils down to how desperate the owner is to rent out his property. I once had a peek through the open front door of my neighbour's apartment as I passed by. It looked as if it had been bombed or hit by a wrecking ball. The plaster on the walls was peeling, the doors of the kitchen cabinets looked about to fall off their hinges, and the living room sofa should have been thrown out in the garbage dump long ago. And the floor? It was covered with layers of grime and rubbish.

Spotting me at the door, my neighbour invited me in to survey the horror. I guess she wanted to share her shock with someone else, who could also bear witness to the total destruction done. The toilets were filthy and unusable. The mattresses in the bedrooms were grossly stained and the curtains were actually pieces of sarong strung up together. The whole apartment was left in a state resembling this one in the video below.

What kind of tenants would leave their rented premises in such a deplorable condition? For my neighbour, the answer is one word - students. Foreign students. Foreign male students. All 12 of them splitting the rent for a 3-room apartment meant for a small family of five or six. Such massive damage cannot be attributed solely to a lack of responsibilty. Often when tenants leave on a sour note after receiving an eviction notice, they feel they have a right to settle a score. What better way to express this than to leave behind broken furniture and missing fixtures? Also months of unpaid rent and utility bills amounting to thousands of dollars. And don't forget the cost of repairing the damage which could easily run into tens of thousands of dollars. All very painful for the owner indeed.

But I also wonder why my neighbour rented out her apartment to these students in the first place. She was not in dire financial straits. As owners, the onus is on us to choose our tenants carefully, and have them sign a tenancy agreement to safeguard our property. Without such a document, owners are at the mercy of these tenants from hell. Even with the document, there is no guarantee the tenant will honour the terms. Any legal action taken against the tenant can take ages and incur more expenses for the owner. In the end, the tenant gets away scot-free, taking along with him pilfered items from the apartment.

Discarded cupboard left in the common stairway. Unsightly.

What about the common areas like the compound, garbage dumps and stairways? Tenants use these facilities all the time, yet few observe basic rules of cleanliness and good neighbourliness. The prevailing attitude is one of 'it's not my property, so why should I care?' I suspect some owner-residents are just as guilty. Take a look at what my camera captured:

Flat tyres No road tax. No registration plate. Definitely an abandoned car. Just one of a few occupying space in the parking lot.
Fencing being put to 'good' use. Why waste money on a clothes dryer when sunshine is free? That seems to be the rationale behind this tenant's idea of sun-drying his laundry.
A typical example of laziness. Much more convenient to just leave the garbage bags under the bushes than walk all the way to the nearest garbage dump. Maybe a kind resident will take care of it?

When it comes to poor maintenance of common areas, both owner-residents and tenants share equal blame. One of the biggest challenges of property management companies is the collection of maintenance fees and sinking fund. There is often not enough money collected to pay for improved security, better landscaping and more efficient garbage disposal. But there will always be some residents who refuse to pay. They complain that maintenance is not satisfacory, so why should they pay. It's the old which comes first syndrome.

There is nothing much the management can do except to send reminder after reminder to errant residents to settle their outstanding payments. Don't even think about refusing them entry into the compound, or cutting off their water and electricity supply - the management has no power to do so. The only way to recover these debts is to wait till such a time as when the owner wants to sell his property. The sale cannot be finalized until all outstanding debts are paid in full. But what if the owner has no intention of ever selling his property? He can continue to live in his apartment till he kicks the bucket, without ever having to pay any maintenance fee.

This is why there has been a call for a Tenancy Act to protect property owners.

Don't for one moment think that only owners of low-cost and medium-cost apartments are cursed with such abominable tenants. Owners of bungalows and up-market condominium apartments face a different set of problems. Their tenants think that paying thousands of dollars in monthly rental entitles them to make unreasonable demands like asking for high-end bedroom sets, expensive furnishings and fittings, and brand new electrical appliances. You will be surprised how much damage their children and pet dogs can cause to your property. Such tenants can give you severe heartburn and ulcers, and shorten your life span.

Having heard horror stories about tenants from hell, and having personally witnessed the extensive damage my neighbour's tenant left behind in her apartment, I have sworn never to rent out my apartment to anyone. I would rather keep it as a guest house for relatives and friends who are visiting and need a place to stay.

Do read this article on the same topic

What to do when you meet tenants from hell

Thursday, February 19, 2015