SINGAPORE: A tenant in Singapore recently found himself in a bind after his landlord accused him of “running a business,” violating the apartment rules. Taking to r/askSingapore on Friday (April 19), he asked: “Can my landlord stop me from working from home?”

He explained, “I recently signed a year-long rental for a room contract, and there’s no clause in it that says I can’t work from home. I usually work from home about once a week (as an employee), and I have a bit of an unusual schedule where I leave for work late and come back late (leaving at 12, back at 9). However, my landlord has just told me I can’t work from home anymore.”

When the tenant attempted to clarify that the lease agreement didn’t explicitly prohibit him from working from home, the landlord countered that the activity falls under running a business, a practice not permitted within the apartment premises.

Despite the tenant’s effort to resolve the situation by offering to pay an additional amount for utilities, the landlord remained steadfast in his stance and insisted that he pay for the remaining rent for the year and cover the agent’s fees, basically implying that the man had broken the lease.

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He then asked, “Can I just forfeit my deposit and move out right away to avoid any more drama with this landlord, without having to pay any agent fees or additional costs?

Is working from home occasionally really considered running a business? And does that make it illegal to rent a room for this purpose?”

“As long as it’s not stated explicitly or implied anywhere in the Tenancy agreement, the landlord can’t prohibit you from doing so”

Singaporean Redditors in the comments section expressed their shock at the landlord’s actions and demands.

They noted that legally, the landlord cannot prohibit someone from working from home unless the contract specifies the number of hours the tenant can be in the house daily.

One of the Redditors mentioned that they’ve encountered landlords who initially prohibited tenants from ‘working from home,’ but this issue often gets resolved when tenants offer to foot the costs of utilities like air conditioning and electricity.

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He then remarked, “Your landlord is extreme.”

Another added, “I swear Singaporeans just want to be landlords without taking any on any of the risk, effort, and obligations of being a landlord.

Like, you want to collect rental income on your spare rooms but want your tenant to basically act like he’s invisible / doesn’t live there?

I’ve seen so many complaints about stupid requirements like cannot wash clothes more than once a week / cannot cook / cannot boil water / cannot sit in living room / cannot use electricity during certain hours – like do you have a tenant or a prisoner?!”

A third Redditor stated, “If it’s not in the contract, you can legally continue to WFH. If it were illegal, there wouldn’t be all this current discussion about employers having to consider approving WFH requests.

I’m not a lawyer, but surely the only way it counts as running a business is if you register your business at your landlord’s address.”

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A few others suggested he move out as soon as possible but take the deposit with him because he never broke the rules and looked for premises, such as co-living rental rooms, with no landlords.

In November 2023, Today Online reported that many landlords had added a requirement or rule that their future tenants couldn’t work from home.

At the time, two main reasons were given. One was that landlords did not want to deal with the hassle of dividing up utility bills, and the other was that some landlords had privacy concerns.

According to one property agent, landlords feel ‘stifled’ when tenants spend the whole day at home. “Even though it’s their own unit and their own place, they feel like they are being invaded,” the agent said.

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