Private apartment owners who rent out their apartments or rooms on a short-term basis on websites like Airbnb soon may breach the law. The Government passed a Planning (Amendment) Bill on 6 February that will make the ban on Airbnb-style short-term home rentals more binding.
Under the current guidelines set by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), home-owners are prohibited from subletting their homes for rentals under six months. Those found in violation of the rules will be fined up to S$200,000 (US$141,400) or be jailed for up to a year. But some said that the guideline is not law as it is not codified in a statutory instrument.
The new law will grant URA officers increased powers to step in and call up any suspected violators of this rule for questioning. The officers will also have the authority to demand relevant information or documents pertaining to the violation, take on-site video evidence, and conduct forced entry into the homes in question.
“Allowing residences to be used for short stays leads to high turnovers of occupants, and gives rise to nuisance and safety concerns. Most of us do prefer some familiarity with the people who live around our homes,” a statement on the URA website stated.
The new law will also limit the number of unrelated tenants in private apartments to six, down from the currently allowed eight. URA’s approval would be required for apartments that are rented to more than six unrelated tenants, and the apartments will be treated as dormitories.
Property owners will also be held responsible for unauthorised works by their tenants or contractors under the new law, unless they can prove that they have taken precautions to prevent them.
But the National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, at the debate on the Planning (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on Monday said the URA is studying the option of creating a new category of private homes that will be allowed for short-term rentals. If created, the new category can apply to existing properties, as well as new residential sites, that may be designated specifically for the building of short-term rental properties.
Mr Wong said, “Private residential properties should not be used for other purposes without planning approval, as there is a need to safeguard the living environment of residents in the neighborhood.”
This gives the URA more time to study the issues and come up with a regulatory framework. It needs to balance the concerns of those who want to let out rooms on home-sharing platforms like Airbnb, with the interests of hoteliers and accommodation providers which are subject to licensing requirements; and with regards to neighbours who are entitled to peaceful and save living spaces.
Home-sharing platforms bring strangers together in a home for weeks in a shared property, which may fuel tension. The guests may be a nuisance, either because they’re party animals or get into a loud conversation. Add this to the fact that HDB apartment units tend to be built rather close to one another, with very limited common areas, it would be very easy to get on the neighbours’ nerves. Neighbours also usually object to living next to a unit with a constant in and out movement of short-term guests.
Hoteliers are unhappy that Airbnb rentals do not have to follow the kind of safety regulations they are subject to, and Airbnb renters do not pay occupancy or other government tax that hotel guests have to pay. This results in commercially run hotels bearing higher costs, that they can’t compete with private room rentals by home-owner hosts on price.
Quora reported the co-founder of MetroResidences, James Chua’s list of the opinions on the matter after speaking to a few hundred guests, owners, regulators, companies, students, schools, medical tourists and hotel owners personally:
- Guests want it.
- Hotel associations hate it.
- Real demand is driven by expensive hotels and few viable options for the person who staying for 30–180 days.
- Landlords of investment properties (non-owner occupied) are for it; mainly due to pressure to service mortgage.
- About half of landlords of owner-occupied properties are against it mainly due to discomfort of unfamiliar faces.
- The other half are for it due to supplementary income; background is usually recent unemployment driving the activity to host.
- Solution to social problem faced by retiree in asset rich cash poor position.
- Neighbours will activate the regulator when drunks or prostitution is involved.
- Regulators usually neutral until hotel associations put pressure.
- Most common reasons cited by regulator are: tax and disturbance.