The Unpaid Agent: A Cautionary Tale for the Property Industry

Thomas Tong
4 min readFeb 13, 2023

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[Full Disclosure: I’m a licensed real estate salesperson with PropNex. Updating and maintaining this blog helps me condense and express my thoughts about the real estate scene in Singapore. Hope you enjoy the read! Feel free to ask me any questions here or drop me a DM on Facebook.]

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of encountering a landlord who refused to pay me after I rendered my services. Let me share this story as a lesson for all agents and landlords. For the purpose of this story let's just call the landlord Mr. Tan. So I met Mr. Tan during a property viewing where I was showcasing a property for sale.

He was impressed with my presentation and asked if I could help him find a tenant for his property. I agreed, and within two weeks, I found him a tenant. I took care of all the necessary paperwork, including the tenancy agreement, ensuring the validity of the tenant’s employment pass, and completing the inventory checklist and Stamp Duty. The tenant moved in and paid the deposit, and the advance rental everything was going on well. All of these documents were signed and acknowledged by both the landlord and the tenant.

However, as time passed, Mr. Tan became frustrated with the minor repair issues that arose and decided to ignore the minor repair clause in the tenancy agreement (Even though it was within the one-month warranty period and all the minor repairs were due to fair wear and tear, not negligence from the tenant.) So he decided he wanted to avoid speaking with the tenant altogether and wanted me to be the middleman for everything moving forward.

He imposed unreasonable milestones on me, including making sure I turned up for all the handyman diagnose sessions and making sure I ensured that the handyman didn't cut corners when they were doing their work. Several times, the landlord refused to engage the handyman’s service even after they had already turned up because he felt the handyman was trying to rip him off a couple of bucks.

Despite my efforts to meet these milestones, Mr. Tan refused to pay my commission. The last straw for me was when he demanded that I write an eviction letter to evict the tenant due to his frustration with the wear and tear on his 15-year-old property, which has been vacant for one year. He wanted me to draft and sign off with my name instead of his, insisted i hand deliver it to the tenant, and wanted me to make sure that the tenant was evicted by a specific date.

but the issue is, the tenant did not even do anything wrong. The landlord was purely throwing tantrums because he did not want to adhere to the minor repair clause anymore even though it was within the one-month warranty period.

When I advised him that evicting the tenant (when they have done nothing wrong) is a job for the lawyers, and I cannot possibly sign off the eviction letters and draft them on his behalf, he started verbally abusing me.

At that moment I realized that doing all these things for Mr. Tan only led to him taking me for granted. So I consulted the professional service manual (PSM) at CEA and discovered that several tasks requested by Mr. Tan were not mandatory for me to complete. So I decided to tell him and walk away from the situation politely.

However, I do also understand that going above and beyond to provide excellent service to clients is something that all agents do. Maintaining a good relationship with your clients in this fashion is nice. but at the same time, it is also important for agents to distinguish when their clients may be unwilling to compensate for their services and be smart about it.

On the other hand, it is also fair for landlords to understand that agents are self-employed and incur all costs and risks associated with marketing their properties. As such, it is only polite and respectful for landlords to compensate their agents after the services have been rendered.

Unfortunately, due to a disagreement with my landlord, I had to seek legal help and take my case to the small claims tribunal. By sharing my experience, other agents can avoid a similar situation and always strive to provide top-notch service to their clients while fairly compensated.

So yeah! Let’s work together to ensure that no one has to endure the same situation I did.

[Full Disclosure: I’m a licensed real estate salesperson with PropNex. Updating and maintaining this blog helps me condense and express my thoughts about the real estate scene in Singapore. Hope you enjoy the read! Feel free to ask me any questions here or drop me a DM on Facebook.]

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Thomas Tong

I’ve seen too many people make mistakes when it comes to buying property. Now, I help people buy the right home for investment or for own stay.