Whether you’re planning to rent a room or unit in Singapore, one of the things you may have heard of is the Tenancy Agreement (TA), which you’ll need to sign before you can finally move in. But even before you sign the TA, you may need to deal with another document: The Letter of Intent.
What is the Letter of Intent (LOI)?
A Letter of Intent (LOI) is a document that outlines a preliminary agreement between two parties before a deal is finalised. In Singapore, a prospective tenant would give an LOI to a landlord to express his intention of renting a particular property from the latter.
Although not all landlords will ask for an LOI, some of them won’t rent out their property without getting one. As a prospective tenant, giving the LOI to the landlord serves to demonstrate that you’re serious about renting the property, and are no longer looking at other properties.
After receiving the LOI in Singapore, the landlord will also stop looking for prospective tenants and focus on sealing the deal with you.
Do take note that when you submit the LOI to the landlord, you’ll also need to give him or her the good faith deposit.
What is the Good Faith Deposit?
Submitted together with the LOI, the good faith deposit is a down payment to show that you’re serious about renting the property. It’s also known as the booking deposit. In short, the Letter of Intent for rental indicates to the landlord that you are serious in renting his/her unit.
The amount for the good faith deposit in Singapore is typically equivalent to a month’s rent for a one-year lease, or two months’ rent for a two-year lease. After you sign the TA, the good faith deposit will typically be used as payment for the security deposit.
However, even after you’ve given the LOI and the good faith deposit to the landlord, there may still be a slim chance that the rental transaction falls through.
Although this is rare, it can happen if you and the landlord can’t agree on the terms of the TA. If you find yourself in such a situation, the good faith deposit should be refunded back to you. You should also get your good faith deposit back if the landlord decides not to rent the property to you.
However, should you back out of the transaction, you won’t get the deposit back.
Here’s a table summarizing what happens to the good faith deposit in various scenarios where the rental transaction falls through:
Good faith deposit
Tenant and landlord don’t agree to the terms of the Tenancy Agreement
To be returned to tenant
Landlord doesn’t rent the property to tenant
To be returned to tenant
Tenant decides not to rent the property
To be kept by landlord
There’s also a rare possibility where it’s unclear which party is backing out of the deal. In this case, the landlord may refuse to give you back the good faith deposit.
If you wish to get your good faith deposit back, you can consider filing a claim with the State Courts Small Claims Tribunals.
To minimise any misunderstandings and disputes between you and the landlord, be sure to include clauses in the LOI specifying terms relating to the good faith deposit. This should include clearly the circumstances in which the deposit must be returned to the tenant, or forfeited to the landlord.
What Are the Key Things to Note When Paying the Good Faith Deposit?
Here are some important things to keep in mind when paying the good faith deposit.
Things to take note when paying the good faith deposit
Make sure the landlord is the actual owner of the property
Pay the good faith deposit (and subsequent rental fees) directly to the landlord
Pay the good faith deposit (and/or rental) directly to the landlord to avoid situations of property agents absconding with the good faith deposit/rental. Doing it via PayNow, PayLah or any other digital transfers will be ideal because you will have transaction records to prove.
1. Make Sure the Landlord is the Actual Owner of the Property
Before submitting the Letter of Intent together with the good faith deposit to the landlord, make sure to check that he or she is the actual owner of the property.
If you’re renting an HDB flat, you can get the landlord to log in to his HDB account to verify his ownership.
Alternatively, you may ask him to log into Singapore Land Authority’s (SLA) MyProperty portal, which lists down the HDB flats and/or private properties that are under his name.
You may also confirm his ownership via the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) portal. However, every successful inquiry through this portal costs $2.50.
2. Pay the Good Faith Deposit (and Subsequent Rental Fees) Directly to the Landlord
Once you’ve confirmed that the landlord is the property owner, be sure to submit the LOI and good faith deposit directly to him or her.
It’s best to pay subsequent monthly rental payments directly to the landlord too, instead of the property agent. There have been cases where property agents have absconded not only with the good faith deposit, but also with the monthly rental payments.
When you make any payment to the landlord, be sure to pay him or her either by a bank cheque or an online fund transfer. If the landlord accuses you of late payment when you actually paid on time, you can show the transaction records to prove your case.
Avoid making payments in cash, since such transactions are hard to trace unless you’re provided a receipt.
If you’ve engaged a property agent, he or she can prepare the Letter of Intent for you
What Are the Important Things to Include in the Letter of Intent?
Here are some key elements that should be in an LOI:
Particulars of the landlord and tenant
Address of the rental property
Agreed monthly rental
Duration of lease
Start and end date of the rental period
Amount for good faith deposit and security deposit
Tenancy Agreement date of issue
Last day for both parties to sign the Tenancy Agreement
Conditions in which the good faith deposit is to be returned to the tenant/forfeited
Additionally, you should specify in the LOI all the clauses that you want to include in the TA, including the following:
1. Diplomatic Clause
If you’re an expatriate, you should state in the LOI that you want this clause included in your TA.
The diplomatic clause allows you to terminate the rental contract before it ends, protecting you in the event that you’re posted to another country during the duration of the lease.
Do take note that you can only include this clause in your TA if you’re renting the property for more than a year.
Also, be sure to include the notice period as well (usually two months), so that the landlord has time to find a replacement tenant.
New to Singapore
2. Tenant’s Specific Requests
If you have any specific requests regarding the furniture, fittings, and appliances in the rental property, you should include them in the LOI as well.
Perhaps you find that the fridge in the rental property is too old and might malfunction anytime soon. You can request for a new fridge from the landlord by stating it on the LOI.
Submitting the Letter of Intent and Signing the Tenancy Agreement (TA)
After you’ve found the right property and agreed with the landlord on the monthly rental rate, you can start drafting the Letter of Intent to express your interest in renting the property. If you’ve engaged a property agent to help you with the rental process, he or she can prepare the LOI for you.
Here are the steps to submitting the Letter of Intent and finally signing that TA:
Give the LOI to the landlord along with the good faith deposit to confirm your interest in renting the property.
If the landlord accepts your LOI, he’ll provide you with a draft of the TA within an agreed time. This will typically be three days.
Both you and the landlord will then have seven days (or longer if indicated on the LOI) to sign the TA. Once the TA is signed by both parties, the good faith deposit can be taken by the landlord as the security deposit.
If the landlord rejects the LOI, he’ll need to return the good faith deposit to you. But if you no longer want to proceed with renting the flat, the good faith deposit will be forfeited and taken by the landlord.
Other FAQs Related to LOI:
Is Letter of Intent Legally Binding in Singapore?
While the Letter of Intent signals to the landlord that you are interested in renting the unit, it is not legally binding. There is still some room for backing out of the deal from both parties. The good faith deposit that was paid can also be claimed back.
What is a Letter of Intent in Singapore?
The Letter of Intent is a document that outlines a preliminary agreement between two parties before a deal is finalised. In Singapore, a prospective tenant would give an LOI to a landlord to express his intention of renting a particular property from the latter.
How Long is a Letter of Intent Good for?
Typically, the Letter of Intent is good for seven days before the tenant and the landlord go on to sign the Tenancy Agreement. The tenant/landlord can also indicate a longer validity for the Letter of Intent than the usual seven days.
What Happens After Letter of Intent?
After the Letter of Intent, the next step is to prepare the TA and get both the tenant and landlord to sign it. Once the TA is signed by both parties, the good faith deposit can be taken by the landlord as the security deposit.
Can Letter of Intent be Cancelled?
Since Letter of Intent is not legally binding, either party can choose to cancel it at any time. The lease/rental is confirmed only when the TA is signed.