Oct 2020 - 3 min read
Since the Women’s Charter (Amendment) Bill 2019 was passed in Parliament in November 2019, CEA has been working with the Ministry of Home Affairs on the steps that salespersons have to take to comply with the amended Act.
In July 2020, CEA issued Practice Circular 01-20 to inform salespersons of the diligence checks they have to help their clients with when the Women’s Charter (Amendment) Act came into force from 7 August 2020.
The amended Women’s Charter requires landlords who rent out and tenants who sub-let their residential premises to conduct identity checks on tenants and occupiers of the leased property at the point of signing the lease agreement. This is to ensure that the people they are renting or subletting properties to are indeed who they claim to be. These identity checks are similar to those already required under the Immigration Act with respect to tenants and occupiers who are foreigners.
Extending identity checks to Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents
While landlords are required to exercise due diligence, salespersons also have the responsibility to help landlords and tenants comply with the law. These checks are part of salespersons’ professional duties cited in Paragraph 1.6.3 of CEA’s Professional Service Manual (PSM) when facilitating the rental of premises to foreigners. With the amended Women’s Charter, salespersons must also extend such checks to tenants and occupiers who are Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents, in addition to foreigners.
Practice Circular 01-20 applies to tenancy agreements signed on or after 7 August 2020, and supersedes Paragraph 1.6.3 of the PSM.
In summary, all salespersons, whether they represent landlords or tenants, must conduct the following checks on all tenants and occupiers when facilitating residential rental transactions for HDB and private properties:
If there is a change in the tenant or occupier after the commencement of the tenancy, and if the salesperson has agreed to assist the landlord or tenant to facilitate the change in the tenant or occupier, the salesperson must also conduct the same diligence checks on the new tenant or occupier.
Keeping records of the checks conducted
Salespersons, regardless whether they represent tenants or landlords, must ensure that the ‘Checklist for Lease of Residential Property for Compliance with the Immigration Act and Women’s Charter’ in Annex A of Practice Circular 01-20 is duly filled in and signed by all relevant parties involved in the rental transaction.
To enable salespersons to conduct the diligence checks easily, there are QR codes that link to the relevant government websites in the Checklist.
Salespersons must submit the completed Checklist as well as the results of the diligence checks to their estate agents. Estate agents are required to keep the records as transaction documents for five years in compliance with Paragraph 7(1) of the Code of Practice for Estate Agents.
Where there is suspicion that the property may be used for vice or other criminal activities, the salesperson must submit the information of the suspicious activity to the Police. Salesperson should also record suspicious behaviours in the “Remarks” column of the Checklist. Such behaviours include but are not limited to:
- Tenant/occupier refusing to provide the necessary identification documents for checks or for the salesperson to make copies.
- Landlord deciding to proceed with the transaction despite the salesperson’s advice against the lease.
- Landlord/tenant refusing to sign the Checklist, even after the salesperson has explained the purpose of the Checklist.
CEA has provided a list of Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs) to address common queries on the Checklist and the issues salespersons may face when conducting the diligence checks. The FAQs have taken into account feedback received from earlier industry consultations.
Doing our part to combat vice
The amendments to the Women’s Charter serve to strengthen Police’s levers against vice syndicates and activities so as to safeguard our neighbourhoods against vice activities.
It is not the Government’s intent to target enforcement actions against salespersons who have acted in good faith and in accordance with their professional duties. However, salespersons who fail to perform the required diligence checks could be subject to disciplinary actions by CEA.
Salespersons can report suspicious behaviours and transactions to the Police through the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000. Alternatively, salespersons can also submit vice-related information online via i-Witness or through the Police@SG mobile application.
Information accurate as at 16 October 2020
*As informed to the industry via Notice 08-23, Practice Guidelines on Due Diligence Checks Under The Women's Charter 1961 and Immigration Act 1959 (PGD) had superseded Practice Circular on Diligence Checks to Combat Vice in our Neighbourhoods and Compliance with the Immigration Act (PC 01-20,) with effect from 24 March 2023.