April 5, 2009 Sunday

More expats fall prey to rogue property agents

Many caught in rental scams unable to get back their deposits

By Elizabeth Soh

More expatriates have become victims of tricky landlords, dodgy tenancy agreements, disappearing deposits and other rental snares.

According to the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), foreigners lodged 32, out of a total of 365, complaints against real estate agents from last October to March this year.

This was a 23 per cent increase from the 26, out of 516, complaints within the same period a year earlier .

The Institute of Estate Agents itself has received five complaints from foreigners since last October. None of the agents mentioned was registered with it.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said that most of the complaints it received concerned rental agreements.

Commonly cited were overcharging and failure to honour agreements, especially with regard to refunds.

The onset of the economic crisis, with many retrenched foreigners terminating their leases early, may be a push factor for rogue agents.

Mr Chris Koh, a director at realty company Dennis Wee Group, said: 'The