More than 2,000 illegal short-term stays reported between 2015 to 2017: Lawrence Wong

More than 2,000 illegal short-term stays reported between 2015 to 2017: Lawrence Wong

HDB flats and private property
A view of residential developments in Singapore. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: More than 2,000 reports of unauthorised short-term stays in residential units were received by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) between 2015 to 2017, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in Parliament on Wednesday (Jul 11).

Of these, 1,808 were in private homes and 390 in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats. 

Mr Wong was responding to questions in Parliament on short-term home rentals by Members of Parliament Alex Yam, Melvin Yong and Lee Bee Wah.

Currently, the minimum rental period for private homes and HDB flats in Singapore are three and six months respectively, meaning short-term lettings on platforms like Airbnb are prohibited.

Enforcement notices will be issued for all these cases, said Mr Wong.

"A good majority of them will then stop, and immediately comply with the enforcement notice, but should there be cases that continue or there are egregious cases, then indeed, URA will work with AGC (Attorney-General's Chambers) on prosecution," he added.

Earlier this year, two Singaporean Airbnb hosts were fined a total of S$60,000 each in the first such cases under new rules introduced in 2017.

Singapore Airbnb hosts d'Leedon
Composite photo taken on Feb 27, 2018 shows real estate agents Yao Songliang (left) and Terence Tan En Wei (right) leaving the State Court in Singapore. The two Singaporeans pleaded guilty to unauthorised short-term lending by letting out apartments on Airbnb. (Photo: Roslan RAHMAN/AFP)

SUPPORT FOR PROPOSED REGULATIONS

Following public feedback on a proposed regulatory framework for short-term letting, the URA will be further studying responses, before deciding how to take this issue forward, said Mr Wong. The public consultation exercise was conducted between Apr 16 to May 31 this year.

"Many respondents supported the need for regulations on STA, given that STA can cause negative externalities to other residents," Mr Wong said.  "Key concerns raised include safety, security and privacy, as well as abuse of common property.  Many also supported regulating STA platform operators, for example, through a licensing framework."

One of the proposals suggested in the framework was for the management corporation to obtain an 80 per cent consent from owners within a strata-titled residential development before STA can be permitted in any residential unit.

"There was mixed response to this proposal," said Mr Wong. "Some respondents felt that an 80 per cent threshold would be unfair to the minority who do not support STA, but have to accept the presence of STA guests in their developments.

"On the other hand, there were others who felt that an 80 per cent threshold was too high, and that it would be difficult to obtain sufficient votes in support of STA among home-owners."

The URA has also considered the impact of STAs on Singapore's hospitality industry, said Mr Wong, who added that the proposed regulatory framework includes controls similar to those imposed on the hospitality industry.

These include requirements for STA hosts to collect and record the personal details of guests and to comply with fire safety regulations, as well as a proposal for platform operators to be licensed.

"The intent is to provide a more level playing field in the STA sector and the hospitality industry," Mr Wong added.

"Our approach to this has to be one that's based on fair competition. It's not possible to say let's block any new entrants into the hospitality sector simply on the basis that the existing incumbents have put in investments."

Source: CNA/mt(hm)

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