Short-term home rentals like Airbnb now illegal, government looking at changes

Short-term home rentals like Airbnb now illegal, government looking at changes
Home-sharing business Airbnb, which set up its regional headquarters in Singapore in 2012, has about 7,000 property listings here as of November 2016.
PHOTO: AFP

It is now illegal for private home owners to lease out their properties for short-term accommodation.

An existing Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) guideline against any short-term accommodation of less than six months in private residences was incorporated into the Planning Act after an amendment was passed in Parliament yesterday.

The current penalties, whereby private home owners who lease their units for less than six months can be fined up to $200,000 and jailed for up to a year, remain unchanged.

Over the past year, URA has seen a 60 per cent rise in complaints about breaches of the rule in private residences, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong told Parliament yesterday.

But hope is not lost for those who want to rent their properties on popular home-sharing sites such as Airbnb.

The URA is studying the option of a new use class for owners of private residences who wish to engage in short-term rentals, said Mr Wong in his closing speech for the Planning (Amendment) Bill.

Such properties would need to be approved for that specific purpose, just like service apartments or hotels, he added.

Read also: Home sharing still up in the Airbnb​

Existing residential buildings would require planning permission for the change of use, and this would be subject to a set of guidelines that URA is currently examining.

URA is also looking into a possible reduction in the minimum rental time frame of six months.

Mr Wong said: "But whatever adjustments we may make to this minimum period, it is clear that residential homes should not be converted to daily rental of rooms or apartments without appropriate controls."

Several MPs, including Nee Soon GRC's Lee Bee Wah and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC's Saktiandi Supaat, asked for clarity on the Government's stand on home-sharing sites, citing concerns by residents over the lack of privacy and security.

Ms Lee said: "I have residents complaining to me about tourists on their floor, moving luggage in and out at odd hours of the day, disturbing their rest."

Read also: Safety remains top priority for Airbnb​

In response, Mr Wong said URA will first work with the managing body of the development that has units with online listings, so that the residents are aware of the rules on short-term stay.

If short-term rentals persist and cause disamenities for other home owners, URA will have to step in to enforce.

Mr Wong emphasised that the Government sees a role for home-sharing platforms to continue operating in Singapore.

Head of Research & Consultancy at SLP International Nicholas Mak said it would be difficult to get approval for short-term rentals from a majority of the residents in any existing condominium.

"Perhaps landed properties could be the place for short-term arrangements because the externalities, such as any damage to the common areas, would be borne by the individual owner instead of his neighbours."

In response to queries from The New Paper, an Airbnb spokesman said it was "disappointing" the discussion has not moved forward, noting that it has been two years since URA's public consultation on home-sharing.

"As written, the Bill lacks the vital details that are so important to the thousands of everyday Singaporeans who take pride in sharing their extra space. Nor is it compatible with Singapore's vision to stay ahead in an age of disruption and innovation."

Read also: To Airbnb or not to Airbnb...

URA inspects Sembawang house used for Airbnb rentals after complaints from neighbours


This article was first published on Feb 07, 2017.
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