Short-term rentals in Singapore are officially illegal. But on the bright side, "short-term" just got shorter.
The minimum rental period for private homes has just been cut from 6 months to 3 months.
That means that, technically speaking, if you manage to find someone who's willing to rent your condo on Airbnb for 3 months straight, you can legally take them on as a tenant.
The government is finally accepting that there is a demand for short-term leases
This is a rather subtle move by the government to accept that there is a growing demand for short-term leases, amidst the security concerns expressed by neighbours of would-be Airbnb hosts. And it's about time.
While it's still illegal to rent out your home to a different tourist every week, the fact is that there are more and more people who come to Singapore for a few months with loftier goals in mind than taking selfies with the Merlion.
For instance, exchange students studying at NUS, NTU or SMU are often in Singapore for just one semester and need to rent a room for only four to five months. There are also foreign interns who take on work experience stints of just a few months.
Previously, people who rented out their flats to such tenants would do so on the sly.
It's better than the stupid idea of creating a new class of private homes that can be rented on the short-term market
A few months ago, it was announced that the government was thinking of creating a "new class" of private homes. These homes would be approved for short-term rentals.
Would these properties be sold at a higher price, since residents would be able to make more money out of them by renting them out on a short-term basis?
How would that affect the rest of the private property market? How would you even regulate the market and stop those in non-approved residences from doing the same?
Would these short-term rental properties turn into backpacker ghettos?
It seems that the government, in lowering the minimum rental period, has accepted that it was a dumb idea, probably suggested by some civil servant intent on wayanging.
But the government still doesn't want people to turn their homes into hotels
Despite the grudging redefinition of what constitutes a short-term rental, URA is still clearly against allowing Singaporeans to turn their homes into hotels.
Tourists are typically allowed to enter Singapore for anywhere between 30 to 90 days.
Shortening the minimum rental period to 3 months thus does not affect the ability of landlords to rent to tourists, except perhaps that one crazy tourist in the world who wants to crash in a Singapore Airbnb for 3 whole months.
Given this attitude, it's unlikely super short-term rentals will become legal anytime in the near future.
Tips for short-term landlords
So, for those who want to make quick cash through short-term rentals, you now risk jail time or a fine in fewer situations than before! Here are some tips for those who want to reap the financial benefits without getting into trouble or pissing off the neighbours.
- Make sure your neighbours aren't tattletales
Realistically speaking, the vast majority of Singaporeans who are renting out their homes on Airbnb aren't doing so for 3 months or more-at least not all of the time.
It is thus very important that your neighbours don't morph into tattletales from hell, keeping your place under surveillance so they can snitch on you at the slightest infringement.
Work hard to build a good relationship with your neighbours. Knock on their door to offer them cookies from time to time, and don't be so "dao" when you bump into them in the lift.
- Profit-share with your neighbours so they can watch your tenants on your behalf
So you've built up a decent, even friendly relationship with your neighbours, and you want their co-operation so they can make sure your tenants aren't throwing parties in your apartment while you're away. This is especially pertinent if you're renting out the entire apartment while on holiday or living elsewhere.
One thing you can try is to set up a profit-sharing agreement with your neighbours so they'll watch your tenants for you without ratting on you to the authorities whenever something goes wrong.
- Inform your MCST ahead of your tenant's arrival
The last thing you want is for the police to be notified because they mistook your tenants for terrorists loitering around the condo.
To prevent any unpleasant surprises, inform your MCST and security of your tenant's arrival.
This is especially important if you're renting out the entire unit, as you won't be around to save your tenant if he gets into trouble. This will also save your tenant from having to register as a guest each and every time he comes back to your apartment.