The Singapore government passed a legislation yesterday 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 already 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.
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,” said a statement on the URA website.
Airbnb sent a statement to Channel NewsAsia stating it was disappointed by the new legislation.
“We have repeatedly offered our support to relevant agencies to develop a framework that promotes responsible home-sharing. Nearly two years since the URA’s public consultation, it’s disappointing that the discussion has not moved forward,” said Airbnb.
“More than 50 per cent of hosts in Singapore are sharing their primary residence – the home in which they live. For a lot of Singaporeans, the opportunity to list their home on Airbnb – for an average of S$5,000 per year – makes a real difference paying off the mortgage, electricity bills and other daily expenses,” it added.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong told Parliament that last year, URA saw complaints from home-owners about such violations increased by 60 per cent. It is not known how much was directly attributed to Airbnb rentals.
The listing of homes on home-sharing or rental websites is still permissible and will not be regulated, but URA will work with the management of listed private properties to inform its residents of the rules.
Still, all is not lost for Airbnb hosts, URA said it may reduce the minimum rental period, although daily rentals would still be out of the question.
“Such premises which are rented out daily ought to be regulated more like hotels rather than residential homes and should be subject to relevant license and conditions to ensure proper standards,” said Wong.
The URA is also considering creating a new category of private residences that would accommodate short-term rentals.
“New residential sites can be sold with such an approved use, allowing flexibility for short-term rentals. For existing residential buildings, they would then require planning permission for change of use, and this would be subject to a set of guidelines which URA is looking into,” said Wong.
Image Credit: Airbnb