SINGAPORE: In a recent trend observed in the Singaporean property rental market, an increasing number of landlords are incorporating a No WFH policy in rental listings, as reported by TODAY. This stipulation has sparked conversations among landlords and tenants, with divided opinions.

The decision to include a “No WFH” clause is primarily attributed to concerns raised by landlords, who cite rising utility costs and privacy issues as their driving factors. Ms. Jeanette Goh, a property agent, highlighted the landlords’ perspective, stating, “They feel a little stifled at home. Even though it’s their own unit and their own place, they feel like they are being invaded.” This sentiment may stem from experiences during the peak of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 when prolonged periods at home led to increased utility bills and a sense of intrusion for property owners.

Single-room rentals seem particularly affected, with landlords reluctant to bear the burden of splitting utility bills, especially if tenants are home throughout the day. Ms Tham, a property agent, shared that having a “No WFH” policy safeguards landlords against potential misuse of utilities, stating, “There must be some form of measures taken to take control of all this. All these expenses are extra costs that shouldn’t be charged to the landlord.”

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For some landlords, like Mdm Ang, who is in her 50s and cares for five grandchildren during the day, noise concerns become a pivotal reason for implementing a no-WFH policy. Mdm Ang explained that the house would be “very noisy” if a tenant were to work from home, impacting their ability to focus on their work.

However, this trend has not been without its share of criticism from tenants. Those on hybrid work arrangements find the “No WFH” criterion unreasonable, arguing that they already contribute to utility costs. Ms Lynnette Gan, a 33-year-old sales manager, commented, “It’s quite an unreasonable rule.” Another tenant, Jasline Cheng, voiced frustration at encountering multiple restrictions, including the “no cooking” rule, in listings with monthly rentals exceeding S$1,000. She said, “With the increase in rent and cost of living, do you really expect me to eat out every day?”

Freelancer Bernard Boey emphasised the importance of flexibility, stating, “Even if I currently do not work from home, it is risky because circumstances may change quickly.”

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Property agent Karine Lee pointed out that while these clear restrictions may seem unattractive to tenants, they serve a purpose in helping tenants narrow down their choices. With a surplus of rental options in the current market, tenants can avoid problematic landlords by opting for listings with transparent policies.

The rental market slowdown, attributed to excess supply, may force landlords to reconsider their policies or reduce rental fees. Ms Lee noted, “Some landlords don’t mind waiting for the ‘perfect’ tenant, but some will not. They will try to make adjustments to rent out the unit as soon as possible to minimize the losses incurred during this empty period.”

As the debate over the “No WFH” policy continues, it remains to be seen whether this trend will persist or if market dynamics will prompt landlords to reassess their leasing criteria./TISG