IN early February, a new law was passed by the Singapore government to ban short-term home rentals in the city, setting alarm bells ringing for home-sharing models such as Airbnb and HomeAway Asia.
Under regulations set by the Urban Regulation Authority (URA), homeowners in Singapore are banned from renting out their homes for rentals shorter than six months, and those found in violation of this code could be fined for up to US$200,000 (US$140,755), or jailed for up to a year.
The new law also grants power to the URA to call up individuals for questioning, as well as request for relevant documents and on-site video evidence from home-owners. Authorities can also conduct forced entry into suspected homes.
The new conduct was introduced because the high turnover of guests may cause “nuisance and safety issues” to arise within local neighborhoods, as well as to maintain “familiarity” with the people who live around people’s homes.
A statement from the URA read: “Some homeowners are turning their homes into guest houses and leasing rooms out for a couple of days using web portals that provide such leasing services as intermediaries.
“The commercial people view this as a good use of resources. It allows homeowners to generate quick income from spaces they can spare.”
Airbnb expressed disappointment over the new law. Mike Orgill, Airbnb’s Asia-Pacific director of public policy, told The Sunday Times, “[The new mechanism] lacks essential details and it is this lack of clarity that needs addressing.
“While the government has come up with a new bill that codifies existing guidelines, they also say that there may be some way or form for hosts to engage in home-sharing. While the penalties have been made clear, a way forward for our host community has not.”
However, the National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that the government is considering creating a new class of homes where short-term rentals are not outlawed.
A spokesperson for Airbnb told Channel News Asia, “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.”
The company added, “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 (US$3,521) per year – makes a real difference paying off the mortgage, electricity bills and other daily expenses.”