How to Screen Tenants – Questions, What to Check when Renting Out your Property


If you’re renting out your property, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to getting a decent tenant. Screening tenants and asking them the right questions are skills that all landlords must acquire, but many only realise this until its too late.

Runaway tenants, unpaid rents and damaged furniture aside, the absolute worst case scenario when landlords don’t screen tenants carefully is when they run afoul of the law and use the landlord’s premises for illicit criminal activity.

Recently, the law has been changed specially to address the rising number of foreign tenants arrested for committing vice within residential estates. And the changes mean that landlords themselves could be subject to hefty punishments, including a fine and jail time.

So, if you’re just a landlord wanting to make a decent rental yield, follow these important step-by-step tenant screening tips that can keep you on the right side of the law.

Tenant Screening Step #1: Check his/her residential status

Your property agent should be doing this, but responsibility also rests with the landlord to find out whether a foreign tenant is cleared to live and work in Singapore, by checking his/her immigration status. There are a few types of passes:

  • Immigration pass
    • Issued by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA)
    • Issued to foreigners residing or studying in Singapore
      • Student’s Pass
      • Long Term Pass
  • Dependant’s Pass
    • Issued by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA)
      • Cards typically to the accompanying spouse of the key pass holder. Holders do not need to be employed.
  • Work Passes
    • Issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)
      • Work Permit
        • Work Permit holders are NOT allowed to rent a HDB flat, they may only rent an individual room in the flat
      • S Pass
      • Employment Pass
      • Entrepass

To do this, you’ll need to perform these checks:

  • Check his/her ORIGINAL immigration pass or/and work pass;
  • Cross-check photos and particulars on these passes against those in his/her original passport; and
  • Verify that the pass is valid for the duration of the tenancy
  • Verify with the employer that the prospective tenant is working in Singapore (optional)

To check whether the immigration or work pass is genuine, you can inspect the two holographic lenses on the pass. One should reflect the pass holder’s photograph. The other, when tilted at an angle, should show the prospective tenant’s:

  • Foreign Identification Number (FIN) for Employment Pass holders
  • Work pass number for Work Permit or S Pass holders

Still not convinced? You can easily verify the validity of the tenant’s immigration pass via ICA’s portal, and the work pass via MOM’s portal. This is the fastest and most foolproof way to check whether your tenant is legally allowed to work in Singapore.

Other means of verification include:

  • Submitting a request to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) online
  • Contacting the ICA at 6391-0000 for immigration passes during office hours, or MOM for work passes at 6438-5122
  • Drop by ICA or MOM during office hours to check

For MOM passes, you can also check if the pass card matches the design of the MOM issued passes. (Because you can never do enough checks.)

Tenant Screening Step #2: Ask the right questions

Some landlords let their agents do all the work, including meeting a prospective tenant. While this might be fine for a first appointment, it’s best to find time to meet a tenant who expresses genuine interest about renting your property, before accepting any deposit or issuing any Letter of Intent (LOI).

Here are the questions you might want to ask if you want to determine whether the tenant would be a good fit for your property, especially if he/she is renting a room and sharing with you or other tenants. Remember, a disruptive room rental tenant could make your other tenants move out, damaging your income stream.

  • Why are you moving out of your current place?
  • Do you intend to keep any pets? How old are your pets? Are they trained?
  • Do you plan on getting a roommate in the future?
  • What is your typical work day like? Do you work night shifts or odd hours?
  • Do you smoke? Do you smoke indoors or outside?
  • Do you intend to invite visitors to the house? Might they be staying overnight?

Additionally, it is worth politely asking about the prospective tenant’s current work location. A tenant who lives near his/her place of work is less likely to move/break the lease, as opposed to one that has to commute some distance.

Jurong East mall Jem

Don’t get us wrong, Jurong’s malls are great but, according to normal behaviour, a tenant with a day job at Tampines shouldn’t be renting here…


Tenant Screening Step #3: Check his/her credit score

While can’t check a prospective tenant’s credit score as they are the only ones who can apply for it, you can nevertheless request that they show it to you. It’d be nice if you can reimburse them the $6.50 it takes to obtain the report as well.

Even then, note that not all tenants will have a credit score – for example, foreigners new to Singapore may not have any records for you to check, whereas students are, well, broke and rely on their parent’s money. (Students happen to be the most reliable tenants, nonetheless, as parents won’t risk their children becoming homeless abroad.)

Local working professionals who want to rent your place will have credit scores, and so might foreigners who have lived here for some time. Ask for it nicely (you can do it via your agent), and tenants are often happy to comply, since it proves they are reliable. A red flag would be if the prospective tenant reacts defensively, or shows you credit score with a grade of CC or below.

That said, a poor credit score doesn’t necessarily mean your tenant can’t pay the rent. But it does mean they could be less than responsible, when it comes to payments, when could spell headaches for landlords.

RELATED ARTICLE: Tenancy Agreement, Security Deposit & Utility Deposit In Singapore

Additional tenant screening tips for landlords

While there are no other hard and fast ways to screen, some landlords go as far as to ask for prospective tenant’s payslips and proof of income, which we feel crosses the line of privacy. Instead, ask for a business card, note the position that the prospective tenant holds at the company and check employment/headhunting websites to get an idea of how much a person in that job earns. From this, you can infer whether that tenant will reliably be able to pay rent as, ideally, the monthly rental should not exceed 50% of his/her take-home income.

Furthermore, getting a business card also lets you call the prospective tenant’s employer discreetly to check if he or she is indeed an employee at the company.

Remember that, when screening a tenant, the tenant is screening you at the same time. Keeping the conversation cordial while being able to spot red flags is something you’ll be able to do if you follow the above steps and know the right questions to ask. After all, you’re counting on that guy to take care of your house, while paying you for it!

Liked this article? Read more useful guides on renting out your property in Singapore.


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