Lola (not her real name) is an Indonesian alumni of a Singaporean university who got kicked out of her rented room, over an ironing board, of all things. It’s a traumatic experience for anybody, but especially a nightmare when you are 21 years old and living by yourself in a foreign country, like Lola was (and many of us are). To make matters worse, she was also juggling her final semester of school with a part-time finance internship. Getting kicked out sucks, but if we had to choose a timing, this is definitely not it.
What’s more, this can happen to any of us foreign students in Singapore: if not university halls or certified student hostels, many of us rent individual rooms in an apartment.
What happened exactly?
It all started with an ironing board. It was my final year of university, and I had moved into this two-bedroom flat at Farrer Park. At that point, I was interning part-time at an American company, so occasionally I have conference calls at super weird hours: six, seven in the morning. The flat is a little bit far from my office, so whenever I’m running late, I just bring the ironing board into my bedroom to iron my clothes, because it’s faster, and sometimes I forget to take it out.
The landlords—a husband and wife—didn’t like it. They told me a few times not to put it inside my room. They said that sometimes the maid comes unannounced and needs to iron, but she can’t, because she doesn’t have an ironing board.
But here’s the thing: my bedroom is never locked. I actually told the maid that; she can just go in and take the ironing board whenever she likes. The landlords still didn’t like it; once, I had to go home during my lunch break just to take it out.
Things were going okay for awhile until it didn’t. On that fine weekend afternoon, they asked me to come out of my room, saying they wanted to talk to me, and when I did, they just started yelling and accusing me of stealing their ironing board, and that they wanted to bring me to the cops.
They also told me that they didn’t want to see me anymore — which I felt was codeword for eviction. And even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t want to stay.
So what did you do next?
I started crying, called my boyfriend at the time — let’s call him G — and asked him to come by. He talked to them, and he wanted me to leave, at least temporarily. He didn’t want me to get all stressed out; it was my last semester and I had papers and exams coming up. So I left and stayed with him for about three weeks.
Things didn’t get better. Soon after, they sent me an email saying they were suing me for $30,000, for all the damages that I’ve done. They also went to my Facebook profile and sent a note to my mom, saying I ran away with G — whom my mom didn’t know about — which almost gave her a heart attack.
So in the end, I was practically homeless for about five weeks: with G for the three weeks, and then another friend for about two weeks. I never came back there except to take the rest of my things. I also never got back my deposit, or the rest of my rent for that month.
Was there anything you would’ve done differently?
Buy another ironing board. It’d cost $15. I don’t know, they seemed like pleasant, normal people at first. I’m not sure when things started to change. Maybe it’s because I was always holed up in my room, but I was tired from studying full-time and interning part-time. Or maybe I just seemed like an easy way to get an instant 800 dollars — they were having money problems at the time.
I still learned some valuable things. I’ve always been a planner, I like having contingency plans, but then something like this happens totally out of the blue. It taught me to be more relaxed, actually; you can’t control everything that happens to you. It also taught me to work hard so that one day I won’t need a landlord.
Interview by Putra Muskita.