The Short Term Stay Issue
When traveling and holidaying abroad, Airbnb offers a cheap and convenient alternative to hotels and traditional b and b’s. The idea is that a home owner offers their apartment or room out for rent on a short term basis. It is fast becoming not only the preferred option for many Singaporeans, but also for many visitors and tourists when visiting the island. A quick search of the Airbnb website shows there are in the region of 6000 separate Singapore properties listed, and similar home sharing sites such as Roomorama and PandaBed are not too far behind.
So what is the problem? Simple, in Singapore it is currently illegal for both private and public home owners to lease their properties on a short term basis. By short term, the law states anything less than a continuous 3 month period. This means that apart from the limited number who are advertising their properties for longer than that period, the rest are breaking the law, and with the current penalty being a maximum fine of S$200,000 and a year in jail it is something that should not be ignored.
The URA is more than aware of the problem but has said it needs more time to fully consider this “complex, multi-faceted” issue which has “wide- ranging implications”. It also said that while they are still to make a decision, enforcement action will be carried out.
So how wide scale is the problem and what is the downside to short term stays? Speaking to residents, the overwhelming concern that residents have with their neighbouring properties being leased out in this way is security. With constant comings and goings, and seemingly limited or no checks on those renting the properties, people are concerned that not only will it change the atmosphere of the property, and that they no longer feel they, their families or their property are as safe as they were.
Other residents have also voiced their concerns that those properties advertised also offer the shared amenities as part of the deal. This means the visitors will have free use of the swimming pool, gymnasium etc , and the fear is they will not use them with the same respect as those who live there permanently.
The amount of people using this method to make some extra money is on the increase, as is the number of complaints made to the URA. 2013 saw 231 such complaints, that figure rising to 375 and 377 in subsequent years. In the first 4 months of this year they have received 161 complaints from disgruntled residents.
There is an undoubted plus side to this. The availability of more varied and economical options when it comes to accommodation on the island will have a positive boost to tourism and the economy, but we will have to wait until the URA make their final decision on whether to change the laws before there will be wholesale changes to the way visitors holiday here.
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