A foreigner’s guide to renting a property in Malaysia

Here we detail the preliminary steps involved and what expats should expect when looking to secure a rental property.

© tktktk/ 123RF

When you’re on foreign soil, looking for the perfect home is no less than a wild adventure. It’s hard to know where to start and you may not know much about the local property market. Hopefully with this guide, you will be able to rent a property hassle-free, like an expert! We will answer your top frequently asked questions about renting as a foreign national in Malaysia.

First of all, what is your residency status in Malaysia?

Are you a resident or a non-resident? If you are a Permanent Resident in Malaysia, the rules for you are pretty much the same as the locals.
However, if you are a non-resident, the rules will differ slightly. You will need to provide additional documents to show how long you will be residing in Malaysia and the purpose of your stay. Landlords will require some form of assurance that you will respect the full term of the tenancy agreement and will not default on your monthly rent payments – either with an employment letter or a photocopy of your passport.

Who qualifies as a resident in Malaysia?

Property owners are often hesitant to rent out their residential properties to foreigners because they are afraid that the foreign tenants may pack up and leave the country on short notice without settling their rent balance.

To assure your landlord that you are a responsible and law-abiding individual, being a tax-paying resident in Malaysia puts you at a big advantage. How to find out if you are a tax-paying resident, you ask?

If you have been staying in Malaysia for more than 182 days in a calendar year or for 12 months consecutively, you are considered a tax-paying resident in Malaysia. Another way to qualify is to spend 90 days or more in the current tax year, and an additional 90 days in the past 3-4 years.

This proof of consistent stay in Malaysia and meeting your tax obligations assure landlords that they can count on you to meet the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement.

What are the differences between short-term and long-term stay?

There are two types of tenancy agreements – short-term and long-term. If you hold a tourist visa or term visa and will be staying in Malaysia for less than 12 months, it is considered a short-term stay.

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© Dean Drobot | 123rf

This would usually apply when you’re in the country to attend a special event, stay for a business trip or to spend some vacation time with your family. If your rental period does not exceed 3 months, it is recommended that you patronise short-term accommodation platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com or hotels, instead.

Local property owners are usually more interested in tenants who would stay long-term in Malaysia, as the minimum tenancy period is at least 1 year, up to a maximum of 3 years. The longer you choose to stay, your landlord will feel more inclined to negotiate a better rental rate and more favourable terms and conditions.

The following types of visa will permit you to stay for more than 1 year in Malaysia:

  • Permanent Resident (PR)
  • Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) Programme
  • A student enrolled in a course with a duration of 1 year or more
  • An employee with a 1-year visa or more
  • A worker from any industry with a visa of 1 year or more

MORE: How to be a Permanent Resident (PR) in Malaysia?

Where should I look for rental options in Malaysia?

The best way to start property hunting is to hit the internet. You can check out popular property portals like iProperty which has a vast listing with plenty of options for house type, location and price range. 

Once you have found a property you like, note down the contact details of the property agent and give them a call to request for a property viewing. Be sure to do your due diligence and research on the area and nearby amenities – or check out the list of recommended areas below.

Which Malaysian neighbourhoods are most popular with expats?

Expats are more likely to look for a home which is close to the city centre or within close proximity to their workplace or university. Accessibility and amenities are an important criteria, such as the proximity of the LRT and MRT, convenience stores, shopping malls and restaurants.

landed high rise selangor klang valley

© rf123

Here’s a list of the most popular areas among expats who are looking to rent residential properties in Malaysia:

  • The Golden Triangle – The heart of Kuala Lumpur is immensely popular amongst expats because this specific area boasts the most attractive condominiums and a full array of amenities. Plus, it is the main hub for multinational companies (MNCs) and an active nightlife scene that promises an urban city lifestyle.

READ: Top 5 most searched residential properties for rent in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)

  • Damansara Heights – Only 5 kilometres away from the city centre, Damansara has the best detached landed properties and luxury condominiums for a comfortable stay in Malaysia. Not to mention, its affluent neighbourhood is bound to jive with even the most discerning expat.
  • Mont Kiara – If you are relocating to Malaysia with your family, then Mont Kiara would be the best place to start. Just northwest of KL, this neighbourhood has many secured residential condominiums with comprehensive facilities. Plus, the area has numerous international schools and restaurants with plenty of foreign cuisines.

CHECK OUT: Top 5 most searched residential properties for rent in Mont Kiara

  • Bangsar – If you are looking for beautiful bungalows in a quaint neighbourhood, this is the best location with only a 10-minute distance from the city centre.
  • Ampang – At the northeast side of KL, Ampang is another favourite location for expats. It houses a number of foreign embassies, international schools, healthcare facilities, and not to mention the secured condominiums for convenient living in Malaysia.
  • Petaling Jaya – This city is a popular hub in the Klang Valley with many warehouses, factories, shopping malls, office buildings, shop lots and landed properties, making it a sought-after location for foreign businessmen and employees alike.

BROWSE: Top 5 most searched residential properties for rent in Petaling Jaya

How negotiable are home rentals in Malaysia?

Since the rent control law in Malaysia has been abolished, you can definitely attempt to negotiate your rental price. Here’s a little trick for you to win a bargain price on your rent.

Say, you need a fully-furnished apartment. Such apartments are much pricier than the semi-furnished or bare units. So firstly, list down the essential items you actually need for your house. Next, look for semi-furnished apartments which have at least 70% of these items.

During the viewing, negotiate with the agent to include the other 30% of the items you want with a little addition to the current rental price. This way you can enjoy the facilities of a fully furnished house with the price of a semi-furnished house. Of course, this would be subject to your landlord’s approval.

Read more on the 10 things you should know before you rent a house in Malaysia

What are the documents required to rent a residential property?

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kenishirotie | 123rf

Once you are ready to rent, you must have the following documents ready to finalise your tenancy agreement:

  • Valid Passport with 6 months to 1-year validity
  • Valid visa proof, such as working permit or student visa 
  • Employment letter for job holders (optional)
  • Offer letter for students (optional)
  • Signed tenancy agreement

FIND OUT: What are the terms that should be in a Tenancy Agreement for a rental property?

If you find it a challenge to secure a rental unit due to lack of certain documents, then it would be better to rent the house with someone else (either a local or another expat) who has all the necessary documents to smooth out any obstacles in the tenancy process.

What is the minimum tenancy period?

The minimum tenancy period to rent a house in Malaysia is 1 year with the option to renew for another year. However, many tenancy agreements, especially for long term stay in Malaysia include a tenancy period of 2 years with the option for a maximum of 3 years. 

What are the fees involved in renting a house?

We’ve listed out all the usual payments you are expected to meet to proceed with your tenancy:

  • Stamp duty and disbursement fee – A one-off payment amounting to 15% of your monthly rent for the preparation of the tenancy agreement.
  • 2 months of property deposit as security – Refundable upon completion of your tenancy duration, minus any repair costs due to any damages sustained by the house during your stay.
  • 0.5-month utility deposit – Refundable upon completion of your tenancy duration, deducting any overdue utility bills you have not paid.
  • 1-month’s rent payment in advance.

Can I make the property deposit in instalments?

Usually, you will need to pay all the above-mentioned fees upfront, prior to signing the tenancy agreement. However, in some cases it is possible to finalise the house by paying a booking fee of only 1 month’s rent along with the stamp duty and disbursement fee. It all depends on how you negotiate with your landlord.

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© Aleksandr Davydov/ 123RF

You will then receive a copy of the signed tenancy agreement upon paying the booking fee. Thereafter, 1-2 weeks before you move into the house, you can then pay the remaining payments to get the original tenancy agreement and be allowed to move into the house.

Once you’ve received the keys, be sure to check the house for all the agreed upon items in your tenancy agreement. Anything from fixtures, electronics, repairs to the number of parking lots, house keys, letterbox keys and access cards – check that everything is in working condition before your big move-in day. That way, any issues can be resolved with minimal hassle.

What should I be mindful of as a tenant?

Rentals do come with certain responsibilities. You have to be mindful of not doing any irreparable damage to the house and to keep it in the best condition possible. To maintain the trust and goodwill between you and the owner, you can take the following measures:

  • Make sure to have the hard copy of your tenancy agreement before paying your property deposit and moving in, so that you can refer back to it if there are any conflicts with the owner.
  • Take pictures of the house the moment you move in so that you can handover the house in the same condition you received it, with photo proof. This way, you can avoid paying for any damage(s) not incurred by you.
  • Inform the house owner of any letters you find in your letterbox that are addressed to them.
  • Always keep the owner/property agent informed on any vital changes you make to the house to avoid any misunderstandings later on.

What are my monthly obligations when renting a house?

After moving in, these are some of the monthly obligations that you should meet on time:

  • Monthly rent payment on the due date. Usually, you can pay the rent within 7 days from the due date, but only if your property owner is flexible with the timeframe.
  • Don’t forget to pay your monthly utility bills which include the electricity bill, water bill, internet bill and also gas bill, if you have a gas connection.

Yout monthly utility bills will usually arrive by mail, and you can opt to pay for it either online or at the local post office, Pos Malaysia. Both electricity and water bills are most commonly managed by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) and Indah Water, respectively – but you can always check with your landlord ahead of time if the unit/home is using a different service provider. For your internet bills, you will usually be auto-billed depending on your chosen service provider.

Am I liable for my residential property’s maintenance?

Before you move in, if you find that the house needs a little cleaning or a fresh coat of paint, be sure to request them from the owner well ahead of time. It’s best if you can include such special requests as one of the terms and conditions in your tenancy agreement so that you can ensure that they are met when you move into the house.

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However, once you have moved in, you will be responsible for all small repairs inside the house. For example, if your bathroom tap is broken, or you have a fused bulb in your house, you have to pay for these repairs on your own. Just keep in mind that if you choose to rent a strata unit, you won’t have to pay any maintenance fee for the building or repairs conducted in the common facilities.

Even if you are exempted from paying maintenance fees, you will still need to always abide by the strata property rules as you will be held liable for any breach to these rules or any damage incurred during your stay.

What happens when my tenancy duration is almost over?

If you decide to leave the residential property at the end of your tenancy agreement, be sure to inform the owner 3 months prior to the contract’s expiration. That way, the owner will be more willing to refund your property deposit (and use that timeframe to find a new tenant) and you can smoothly hand over the house at the end of your term.

Even if you would like to continue your stay, you should still inform the property owner 3 months in advance, just in case. If the owner agrees to extend your tenancy period, you will have to renew your contract and sign a new tenancy agreement with your landlord.

Looking to apply for the MM2H programme? Read our article on What are the latest requirements for MM2H & How to apply?

Conclusion

The little things go a long way to maintain a cordial relationship between you and the property owner. When you rent a residential property, take good care of it and restore it to its original condition before you say good-bye! We hope you find this guide useful as a comprehensive map of your property rental journey in Malaysia. Follow it closely and you will be sure to have a comfortable stay during your time in this beautiful country!

Edited by Reena Kaur Bhatt

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