News: Coronavirus: Fearing infection, landlords refuse tenants returning from China

Feb 5, 2020

This circumstance leaves the employers and employment agents struggling to find alternative accommodation for their employees.

Employment agents and employers are beginning to see cases of landlords who are closing their doors on tenants returning from China, reported The Straits Times.

For instance, computer salesman Thomas Chua, 67, who has a tenant from China who is set to return to Singapore this week, has told such tenant that he cannot enter his HDB flat in Sembawang upon arrival.

While the tenant had said that he did not travel to Hubei province, the capital city of which (Wuhan) is at the epicentre of the outbreak, Chua still believes that there is still a risk of infection.

“I read in the news that workers who are coming back from China will not be allowed to go back to work for 14 days in case there is a risk of them getting the coronavirus. If I let him stay in my house, what if he is infected and I get the virus?” said Chua.

This circumstance leaves the employers and employment agents struggling to find alternative accommodation for their employees.

Employment agents like Vincent Tan of Trust Vision Employment Agency, expect to encounter more of such cases.

About a third of the 80 to 100 Chinese workers placed by Tan’s agency who are coming back to Singapore have experienced issues with their landlords or roommates, who refused to live with them during the 14-day period.

Another employer, an owner of a food factory who refused to be mentioned, said that the assistant production supervisor of his factory from Sichuan Province, had nowhere to go after she landed at Singapore around midnight on 2 February.

“Her landlord told her that he will take her back only if she shows no symptoms after the 14-day leave of absence period is up. Though we managed to book a hotel for her, they rejected her when she arrived. She ended up hanging around at 24-hour locations outside the whole night. It’s a very bad situation,” he said.

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This is in addition to another employment agent who narrated that about a third of her clients, generally firms in the semiconductor industry, also have workers who have been refused by landlords.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo is already aware of the matter. In fact, she knows of at least 10 workers who have been refused entry to their rented rooms in HDB flats. “We are working with their employers, who are paying housing agents to help them find landlords that can take them in,” explained Teo.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong also noted that the authorities are studying at how to help landlords, employers and households affected by the leave of absence arrangements.

Tenancy contracts do not usually give landlords a right to evict their tenants at their discretion, explained Covenant Chambers lawyer Wilbur Lua.

Thus, another lawyer Chia Boon Teck of Chia Wong Chambers said that in cases of eviction based on terms not covered by the contract, tenants may resort to a number of remedies, such as lodging a claim against their landlords in the Small Claims Tribunal, or sue them in the State Courts for a breach of tenancy agreement.

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg 

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