Being Evicted in Singapore: What Happens and Next Steps
When Can My Landlord Evict Me?
Eviction (or the threat of eviction) from one’s rented home is a terrifying prospect for some. It is therefore important to know when your landlord may carry out the drastic act of eviction.
One of the more common grounds for eviction in Singapore is a breach of the tenancy agreement. The kinds of breaches which may most reasonably give rise to your landlord evicting you include:
- Failure to pay rent or consistently paying rent late;
- Causing damage to the rented property; and
- Conducting illegal activity which creates a legal liability for your landlord, e.g. subletting to illegal immigrants.
This article will explain:
Eviction Process in Singapore
In order for your landlord to evict you, he/she needs to do the following:
- Send you a written termination of tenancy notice
- Obtain a court order to enforce a tenancy notice
- Apply for a writ of possession
- Carry out the eviction
1. Landlord sends a written termination of tenancy notice to the tenant
The landlord should issue you a written termination of tenancy notice stating the breach(es) of the tenancy for which you are being evicted. However, if the breach is capable of remedy, you can and should make an offer to remedy the breach in order to continue the tenancy.
For non-payment of rent, for example, you can offer to pay the outstanding rent. If your landlord agrees, you can pay the outstanding rent through instalments. For damage to property, on the other hand, you consider paying the repair/replacement cost of the damaged property if the quote for repair/replacement is reasonable.
The tenancy notice should also:
- Give notice of the number of days provided in the tenancy agreement for termination; and
- State that you are required to vacate the property by no later than the end of the notice period.
Remember that your landlord cannot evict you before serving this notice. If the tenancy notice contains specific conditions to remedy the breach by a stipulated date (e.g. deadline to pay outstanding rent), your landlord cannot evict you before the stipulated date.
In order to give the landlord the right to evict you, the tenancy agreement must also contain a right of re-entry clause. This means that in the event of specific defaults committed by the tenant, the landlord may enter and repossess the property. Check with a lawyer if in doubt over whether your tenancy agreement contains a right of re-entry clause.
2. Landlord obtains a court order to enforce a tenancy notice
To enforce the tenancy notice against you, the landlord will first need to obtain a court judgment against you. If the landlord’s claim against you is for unpaid rent/damages of up to $20,000, the landlord may be able to obtain this in the Small Claims Tribunals.
Otherwise, if the landlord’s claim exceeds $20,000, the claim may be heard either in Magistrate’s Court or District Court depending on the amount owed. If you dispute the allegation of breach, you should attend the mediation and/or hearing in the Small Claims Tribunals or court to defend yourself. Check with a lawyer if in doubt.
3. Landlord applies for a writ of possession
If the landlord obtains a court order requiring you to pay you a certain sum, and you refuse to comply with that court order, the landlord can then enforce the order by applying for a writ of possession.
A writ of possession will enable a Sheriff (an enforcement officer of the court) to take possession of items belonging to you to recover the debt owed to you.
If the court grants an application for a writ of possession, it will issue a Notice of Eviction to you, informing you of the date and time that you are required to vacate the premises. You will also be informed of this date and time via an appointment letter issued by the Sheriff.
4. Landlord carries out the eviction
On the date and time of eviction, the landlord or his/her agent must be present at the property for the execution of the writ and eviction.
The Sheriff and/or a Bailiff (empowered by the Sheriff to execute court orders) will also attend and will enter the property by force, if necessary.
The landlord will serve papers on you, make an inventory of all the items in the property, seize those items to be sold to satisfy your debt and evict you from the premises.
Disputing the Eviction
It is more difficult to dispute the eviction once an eviction order has been made. It is therefore advisable to challenge any claims of breach of tenancy made by the landlord at an early stage of the legal proceedings.
For example, if your landlord tries to obtain a court judgment against you for non-payment of rent and you dispute this, you should attend the mediation and/or hearing in the Small Claims Tribunals or court to defend yourself. Bring along evidence to prove that the rent was actually paid.
However, even where your landlord has obtained a court judgment for your eviction, the court may grant you or take some time before deciding to issue a writ of possession. During this time it is best that you try to remedy any breach of the tenancy agreement as soon as you can, or negotiate with your landlord to reach a fair agreement. This way, you can avoid eviction.
For example, in the event of eviction for non-payment of rent (as opposed to any other reason for eviction), the court will give you 4 weeks to pay all the rent owed. If you still fail to do so, the court will grant the application for the writ of possession.
For cases involving other reasons for eviction, you are also entitled to apply to the court to resist eviction. The court will then decide whether to grant the writ of possession.
Note that the writ of possession must be served on you. If it is not, the landlord is not entitled to evict you.
Know that even if you are in breach of the tenancy agreement, your landlord cannot harass or intimidate you into leaving if they have not obtained a writ of possession and served it on you. If you believe your landlord is engaging in harassing or intimidation tactics, consult a lawyer.
Moving Out Upon Eviction
If your attempts at negotiations with the landlord fail, or your defence in court is unsuccessful, then you may need to prepare to move out. The Notice of Eviction will state the date and time to vacate the premises.
If you choose to remain in the premises after the end of the tenancy, note that you may be charged double the rent without prior notice until you vacate the property.
You are also not allowed to return to the premises to recover your belongings after the eviction.
While you no longer have to pay the monthly rent after eviction, any judgment sum against you for unpaid rent still needs to be paid. If your landlord applied for a writ of distress and your belongings were seized and sold to cover the cost of the outstanding rent, then you are no longer liable for rent (provided the proceeds of sale covered the entire amount of unpaid rent).
If you need legal advice on possible eviction or threat of eviction, please consult a lawyer.
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