Complaints over rentals jump as home sharing takes hold

The year is not yet over and more complaints on unauthorised short-term rentals of homes by property owners or their tenants have already been made, even as the home-sharing phenomenon looks like it is here to stay.

The number of complaints over such rentals of private homes hit 469 in the first nine months of this year, a jump from the 231 cases for the whole of 2013.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority said it had taken action against 63 of those cases from January to September.

As for complaints over unauthorised short-term rentals in Housing Board flats in the first half of this year, there were 21 cases, reported Lianhe Zaobao yesterday. This is the same number for the whole of last year.

HDB has inspected some 22,000 flats from 2013 until June this year, with 79 cases of flat rental violations unearthed. Six home owners who committed serious offences had their flats repossessed.

Rentals shorter than six months are not allowed in Singapore for private and public homes, but offers are still often made on home-sharing websites like Airbnb.

When contacted, an Airbnb spokesman told The Straits Times: "Singapore has stood as a global model of innovation... The opportunity has now come to continue this leadership by adopting clear, fair and progressive rules to allow regular people to share their homes."

She added that Airbnb is working with the Government towards a regulatory framework for responsible home sharing. 

However, for freelance IT professional Ryu Goh, 33, problems remain. His tenant in his apartment in the Eight Courtyards condominium in Canberra Drive had been subletting it without his knowledge for nine months.

He found out only when neighbours complained to the condo's management about people constantly moving in and out. He also discovered that several Airbnb users had left positive reviews about his place on Airbnb's website.

Mr Goh said he was concerned about strangers staying in his property, since anyone can book through Airbnb. "They might be overstayers, and you don't even know."

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said early this month that while short-term stayers tend to be seen as intruding into people's private spaces, attitudes towards home sharing may change in the future. This is the reason why businesses like home-sharing site Airbnb are not banned in Singapore, he said.

In his May Day Rally Speech earlier this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Airbnb books more rooms every year than the Hilton or Marriott hotel chains. He cited it as an example of online businesses disrupting traditional ones.

"I don't think we can stop this phenomenon and I don't think we should try to stop it," PM Lee said of such disruptions by online services.

This article was first published on Oct 31, 2016.
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