(Photo: The Straits Times)

As rental demand decreases, what are some of the challenges landlords are facing?

Home owners and investors ruled the roost for several years during the buoyant economic times, but the shoe is on the other foot now with tenants able to pick and choose amid a flood of property available.

Just ask landlord Celine Tan.

Ms Tan's potential tenant demanded that the unit be fully furnished, have a bigger TV set, free servicing of air-conditioners and even new cutlery and bath towels.

"It's quite ridiculous. I never had this experience in the last 10 to 15 years of renting, but everyone in the market is so competitive… (that I) have to accede to most of their requests," Ms Tan, 50, said yesterday.

While she did not provide new cutlery and bath towels, she relented on the other demands, which included revamping the bedroom and dining room. The tenant chose the new furniture. "They took a picture at Ikea and showed me the model they wanted," she added.

At least she managed to rent out her three-bedroom apartment at Robertson 100 in Robertson Quay in the middle of last year for a monthly rental of $4,600, down from $5,200 previously.

Apart from demanding lower rents, property agent Anthea Yeo, 39, said tenants are also asking for shorter leases of six months to a year. "Rental is coming down; nobody wants to commit to two years because they know next year, it could be cheaper," added Ms Yeo, an agent with PropNex for nine years.

The lacklustre market has also hit her income, which was down by $200,000 last year, compared with 2014, she said.

Urban Redevelopment Authority data yesterday showed that private home rents fell by 4.6 per cent last year. Rents in the outside central region led the decline, falling 5.6 per cent last year, followed by those on the city fringe, which dropped 4.9 per cent, while rents in the core central region were down 3.8 per cent.

Analysts expect them to continue to fall this year amid a flood of 26,467 new private homes and executive condominiums, tight immigration policies and a weaker economy.

Century 21 Singapore chief executive Ku Swee Yong said rents could fall by over 8 per cent this year. Rents of private homes in the suburbs are likely to be under more pressure as that is where the bulk of new homes are located.

The vacancy rate for private homes could climb from 8.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, to a "critical point" of 9 to 10 per cent this year, said Ms Christine Li, research director at Cushman & Wakefield. "At that level, it shows that the market is correcting in a big way, and owners may be a bit jittery, so they may rush to offload their units," Ms Li added.

(First published in The Straits Times)