Last Updated on 2022-11-12 , 3:07 pm
Over the years, there have been numerous reports about a family renting townhouses, bungalows and high-end flats in the East Coast area, stretching as far back as 2012, with the notable similarity that none of the rents were paid.
In 2019, a family of house-scroungers (for the lack of a better term) owed up to $80,000 in rent over the 20-month stay in the house. It was only after the landlord sued them for the second time in court that the family of three moved out before the forceful eviction could occur.
Welcome to the tenant edition of hellish living, and this is their story.
The Palladium (Poison)
There is a family of three, consisting of a couple and their daughter, who are notorious in the East Coast area for picking high-end apartments and bungalows, but they have brought immense grief to their landlords as they refuse to pay the rent or leave the house once they have settled in.
They have been pulling the same tactic for almost 10 years.
Their most recent victim owns an apartment in The Palladium, a condominium along Brooke Road in the East Coast.
When Lianhe Zaobao went to visit the mentioned condo unit, they found that the door was locked, and a Writ of Possession was pasted on the door.
The Writ stated that female tenant Ho Meilan (transliterated) has been delaying her rent since January 2022, and thus owes $38,000 in rent. She must move out by 18 October, otherwise the court will dispatch bailiffs over to forcibly clear the house.
Chen Yuyao, the chairman of the condominium management committee, confirmed that the East Coast house-scroungers, namely husband and wife Shen Tianbao and Ho Meilian, had previously rented that unit.
The family officially moved out on 17 October.
Terrible Neighbour, Terrible Tenant
According to Chen Yuyao, the family often got into disputes with their neighbours.
They would randomly park their bikes and place their plants on their balcony. When Chen Yuyao reminded them not to do so, the female tenant complained that he was discriminating against them.
On the day they were moving out, the family also made the moving company park their truck under the condominium to move their luggage. In order to make sure that they were leaving, the condominium management did not stop them.
The female security guard at the condo revealed that Shen Tianbao would ride a bicycle to deliver food every day, and he would stop his bicycle in the parking lot.
When he was given a reminder, he retorted, “The bicycle is my car.”
Left with no choice, the security guard could only move the bicycle to the area meant for parking bikes.
The victim this time around is a landlady in her fifties.
When the Chinese newspaper reached out to the real estate agent who handled the rental transaction, the other party refused to say more beyond the fact that the owner deeply regretted the whole experience.
Not only did the legal fees cost tens of thousands of dollars, but the compensation awarded by the court cannot be recovered as well. Now that the tenants have left, the landlady can’t do anything about them.
Victims of The Past
Lianhe Zaobao has reported multiple occasions of the East Coast house-scroungers renting various properties in the East Coast area.
Their modus operandi is always the same: rent a high-end house, refuse to pay the rent, refuse to leave, get sued, move out before the eviction notice expires, repeat.
In 2019, the house-scroungers moved into Bedok Court Condominium on Bedok South Road 3.
After staying there for 20 months without paying rent, they owed the landlord a total of $80,000. The landlord has also applied a second court order to demand compensation.
The couple and their daughter have been bankrupt before. In 1999, a litigant sought for a bankruptcy order against Shen Tianbao. His wife Ho Meilian was also sued for bankruptcy by the bank in August 2000, and his daughter He Jielin was given the bankruptcy status in 2014.
Prior to signing the rental contract, the landlady did her homework and checked if her tenants were bankrupt.
However, it is understood that when the family was renting The Palladium, only the wife and daughter were listed as the tenants. Back then, both of them had been removed from the individual insolvency list.
And thus, the landlady became the next victim who fell for their trap.
The Issue With Being The Landlord
It is important for landlords to know two things before renting out their house: how to ensure that the tenants will pay their rent and what kind of legal actions they can take if the rent payments are delayed.
Another landlord by the surname of Ho, who has interacted with the house-scroungers for three years, said that he has learned his lesson after he met that particular family.
As of right now, the family still owes him more than $200,000 in rent.
He had come to the belated realisation that rental issues were civil disputes, which means that if the landlord does not take up legal action, the court cannot take the initiative to intervene.
He believes that the family of home-scroungers must have been aware of this fact, hence why they kept delaying the rent.
Mr Ho revealed that when they were initially delaying the rental payment, the couple would use all sorts of excuses, from their daughter’s health to money transfers requiring more time to go through.
Afterwards, Mr Ho realised that court cases take a long time, and it wasted both time and money. For instance, the landlord is burdened with proving that they have tried their best to communicate and negotiate with the tenant.
Additionally, if the tenant applies for a “stay” of judgement on reasonable grounds, it will prolong the trial further and force the landlord to pay higher lawyer fees.
Mr Ho said that he spent nearly $10,000 in legal fees to get his house back.
Even though a Writ of Possession to retrieve the property was issued, and bailiffs can be dispatched to reinforce the other, the landowner needs to spend more money to invite law enforcement officers to the scene to ensure everyone’s safety.
Before the eviction can occur, the officers need to give the tenants a period of grace until the final day inscribed on the Writ is reached, before the property can be repossessed.
Although the landlord can take back the house through a court order, there is little they can do to force the tenant to pay their outstanding rent, besides hiring a lawyer to sue them again.
If the tenant has no money, they can apply for bankruptcy.
And therein lies the main problem: all these legal processes require money, and it will reach a point where pursuing the matter is more expensive than the awarded compensation, should they win the case.
Hence, many landlords may choose to quit while they are ahead—aka stop pursuing the tenants for rent—and recoup their losses instead.
Say what you will, but a family who has been running this fraudulent scheme for nearly a decade has some seriously thick skin, and they keep choosing high-end properties too.
They want to live the high life, but they don’t have the money to support it, tsk.
Thankfully, these cases do not happen too frequently.
Real estate agents will generally investigate the background of the tenants before going through with property transactions, and they tend to be more vigilant against older local tenants.
The reason being that most older Singaporeans can afford to buy a house, unless they are simply waiting for their new house to be built.
In order to avoid situations like these, lawyers proposed that the most simple and effective method to protect the landlords is to explicitly state in the contract that the landlord has the right to lock the door to the house once the tenant violates the contract.
However, before locking the doors, the landlord must ensure that no one is at home.
Paper trails and meticulous documentation is critical.
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