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Govt to seek views on short-term private home rentals

URA's reply, 2 Apr 2018

We refer to the recent letters and reports on the use of private homes for short-term accommodation (Airbnb must play by S'pore's residential market rules, by Mr Toh Cheng Seong, March 10; NZ family's Airbnb woes highlight lack of clarity on listings, March 16; Airbnb rules, Singapore-style, March 18; and Govt should penalise enablers like Airbnb, by Mr Christopher Liu Chih Wei, March 20).

Land in Singapore is zoned for specific uses, be it residential, commercial or industrial.

That is why the Urban Redevelopment Authority has always disallowed the use of private residential homes for short-term accommodation on a commercial basis.

Last February, Parliament agreed to make these restrictions explicit in the Planning Act.

Nevertheless, the Government has stated that it is prepared to consider allowing short-term accommodation in private homes, subject to a regulatory framework and appropriate safeguards to ensure that such activities do not negatively affect our residential estates.

We will be conducting a public consultation soon to seek feedback on the proposed regulatory framework.

As most of our private homes are strata-titled developments, it is important that individual strata-titled owners be given the chance to express their views on this matter, as any change in the laws can have significant impact on their living environment.

The issue of short-term accommodation in private homes is complex and multi-faceted, and has wide-ranging implications.

It will take some time to work through the consultation process and to amend legislation, if necessary, for the new rules to take effect.

We welcome the statements of several home-sharing platform operators that they would like to work with the Government on this matter, and look forward to their input during the consultation process.

Meanwhile, they should remind their users to comply with the existing laws in Singapore, which means that the rental of residential private properties is subject to a minimum stay of three months.

Goh Chin Chin (Ms)
Group Director (Development Control)
Urban Redevelopment Authority

Letter, 20 Mar 2018, Straits Times

Govt should penalise enablers like Airbnb

While the recent trouble faced by a family from New Zealand over an Airbnb rental and the convictions of two private home owners for renting their apartments out on short-term rentals signal the Government's efforts to clamp down on short-term leases, it exposes a flaw in our overall enforcement and policymaking regime (NZ family's Airbnb woes highlight lack of clarity on listings, March 16; and Illegal short-term sublets netted duo $19,000, Feb 18).

The current enforcement regime places a huge burden on law enforcement and government agencies to enforce the regulations, and penalises individual offenders.

It does not penalise enablers of illegal behaviour - in this instance Airbnb, which is currently still providing the platform to allow home owners to conduct illegal activities in Singapore.

I recently visited the Philippines and witnessed first-hand the successful implementation of a smoking ban in public places, after an executive order was signed by the President.

There is almost no smoking in public areas such as pedestrian walkways and bus stops - something that is happening daily in Singapore despite all the warnings.

Why did our fellow Asean country succeed where our Government failed?

The answer is in how the laws are being drafted.

In the case of the Philippines, the regulations actually hold accountable persons-in-charge who abet in the commission of the office.

For example, if a building allows smokers to smoke in a non-designated smoking area, the building owner will be penalised.

This significantly increases the enforcement of the law and creates and public-private collaboration towards the successful implementation of the ban.

Singapore courts or government agencies can continue to prosecute home owners, but until such time they penalise Airbnb for enabling Singapore home owners in breaking the law, such illegal behaviour will continue.

Christopher Liu Chih Wei

Letter, 10 Mar 2018, Straits Times

Airbnb must play by Singapore's residential market rules

Airbnb's quest to get its business off the ground in Singapore has been nothing short of self-serving, even after the rules on short-term rentals have been made clear to the company and its clients (Airbnb hopes for official role in S'pore; March 7).

Does Airbnb know how many properties listed on its site are occupied by their hosts, as opposed to vacant assets being milked by investors, or how many are being rented out by tenants, in breach of their leasing contracts?

In its campaign to be legalised, Airbnb has wilfully glossed over a whole host of issues that may inconvenience the vast majority of homeowners who treat their estate like a home, and not a hotel where strangers come and go.

The company has also not proven that it can play by the rules in a socially responsible way.

Singapore should allow short-term rentals only at properties that are developed and fit for such purposes.

We must ensure that establishments like Airbnb uphold appropriate hospitality standards at all times, including proper security vetting of hosts and guests.

Above all, these businesses must be taxed commercial rates.

This approach to legalising short-term rentals is far more tenable, sustainable and progressive for our densely populated island, where privacy can command a premium.

If Airbnb wants an official role in the hospitality game here, then it must learn to adapt to the norms of Singapore's residential market, and not the other way around.

It can start by rejecting all listings that are deemed illegal today, as well as sending the names of these listers to the authorities.

Toh Cheng Seong