LGBTQ Series (Part 3): ‘Diversity Friendly’ Rental. Does it exist?
For many Singaporeans, living in a rental may not be the first thing to come to their mind because 91% Singaporeans own a home of their own (according to figure in 2018). So the vast majority of tenant pools comes from expats and foreigners working and living in Singapore, renting up rooms, or whole units of apartments around Singapore. There are small percentage of locals who move out of their home to stay on their own for different reasons. One of them I will cover today is LGBTQ members renting a place so live alone, with their partner, or for some, forced to move out by an unaccepting family.
In Singapore, there are no anti-discrimination laws protecting tenants from discrimination on any grounds, including sexuality. There are little option for low income groups to rent direct from HDB public housing. For example, the LGBTQ community cannot rent public housing as singles (you must meet the requirements of the defined “family nucleus”). While private properties are an option, they may not be so affordable for them.
Room Rental or Whole Unit Rental
If you are looking at rental options, depending on budget, you could choose a room rental or whole apartment rental.
It’s easier for LGBTQ individuals to rent an entire unit in Singapore (e.g. studio apartment or a three-room HDB flat) than a single room with common tenants or a stay-in-landlord. This is because many landlords in Singapore still hold a conservative attitude towards LGBTQ singles and couples. And finding housemates who are LGBTQ friendly might not be easy, most will think that they will need to compromise on their privacy.
Diversity Friendly Listings
In recent period, a local property portal 99.co launched a new tag in their search option – the “Diversity Friendly” options. According to their definition, this tag is to replace an existing “All Race Welcome” tag to include renters or buyers regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender identity, sexual orientation or physical ability. With this all inclusive tag, it allows the portal to cover the challenges faced by LGBTQ in their home search. Agents can list a property with the “Diversity Friendly” tag to indicated that the landlord is open to an LGBTQ tenant.
While I applaud the portal’s initiative of offering this tag, I am personally doubtful about the accuracy of the listings. One key reason is that “Diversity Friendly” is such a broad term and (as it marked in bold above) it includes not just sexual orientation but 6 other categories of diversity. So we are not 100% clear when an agent checked the diversity box which category is the landlord ok with (or not). And on the subject of property agent, the listings on the portals is usually uploaded and controlled by the agent, and I have seen many misuse of the “Diversity Friendly” options just to attract more eyeballs and clicks. I have found listings marked with ‘Diversity Friendly” option but then within the detailed description terms like “Female preferred”, “No (certain race)” etc… So my word of advise is still to take that option with a pitch of salt -double check or ask your agent to ask confirmed with them. The portal should also up their effort to vet the listings’ authenticity and offer a more specific “LGBTQ-friendly” tag instead.
In the meantime, you can also join these private Facebook Groups to search or list your place in a completely LGBTQ specific environment:
Careful with the Tenancy Agreement
Currently, there is no statutory protection for tenants against discrimination on any grounds. Instead, the tenant-landlord relationship is mainly governed through contractual provisions. A tenancy agreement is a negotiable contract. Most tenancy agreements are standard but it is possible to negotiate the terms and tenant’s and landlord’s covenants before the commencement of lease. The standard Tenancy Agreement (TA) used by many landlords and agents contains a clause stating that the tenant cannot use the rented premises for any illegal purpose of activities of an improper nature. Because LGBTQ couples are cannot be legally married Singapore, a troublesome landlord may rely on this clause may rely on this clause to attempt to evict same-sex couple tenants. Therefore, LGBT couples should negotiate to remove this clause as a precautionary measure.
Even if the landlord is ok to the removal of the reference to “activities of an improper nature”, they would still seek to retain the right to terminate a tenancy for use of the flat for illegal purposes. The landlord would likely be able to terminate the agreement and seek to evict the LGBTQ tenant if he alleges (and proves) that they have committed a crime under section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalise sex between 2 males.
Be sure to always read through the tenancy agreement and negotiate the terms before the commencement of a rental lease. Always take your time to fully understand the clauses of the lease period, especially the exit clauses in case of termination of contract. Remember there’s no turning back after signing the deal!
Besides that, ensure that you’re protected and compensated sufficiently in case of unexpected lease termination by the owner.
Finally, look for a LGBTQ friendly agent to help you with the search, as you can be completely transparent and allow him/her to weed out potential landlords or roommates that might be harbouring prejudices.
William Tan, Property Advisor for LGBTQ
The LGBTQ community has unique needs when it comes to property purchase. Getting advise from a LGBTQ-friendly or openly gay realtor will help you discuss such issues comfortably. If you want to start planning for your dream home, feel free to contact me for a non-obligatory chat. I will share different options to help you meet your objectives. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Mobile: 65-93863406.