The debate surrounding Airbnb in Singapore has been raging for a while, and there is no sign that it is going away any time soon. People on both sides of the argument have been taking to social media and the numerous online forums to put over their case, and there is certainly merit to both camps. The government has recently got involved but that has only served to intensify the debate, and if anything, muddy the waters.
The first thing we should say is that Airbnb – the online marketplace for short term rentals – is still technically illegal in Singapore. There are a lot of grey areas however, depending on who you are renting your room or apartment out to, what property you own, and the length of the rental period. If you are unsure of exactly where you stand, it is something you should take seriously, as people have already been fined as much as $60,000 for contravening the laws on this issue.
These more or less speak for themselves. Singapore is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet. As a result, property prices (for both new launch condos and resale condos) – especially rentals, are among the most expensive of any city. Having a spare room in a desirable location on the island would seem to be beneficial for both the person letting the space – who can earn an extra income, as well as the person renting it. It does make sense for rooms and whole apartments that are laying empty to be fully utilised, especially in a city where space is at such a premium. So what is the problem?
The major concern surrounding short term leasing, and the argument that continues to be brought up when there are moves to relax the legislation, is the impact it has on the other residents. It is far from ideal to live in a flat where the neighbours are constantly moving in and out. First of all this results in a huge increase in the amount of noise and disruption, as people are coming and going, usually with luggage and belongings. It also represents a security risk, or at least the perception of one. People get to know their neighbours and those they share a floor or block with if not by name, certainly by sight. With tenants coming and going on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis, that all changes. Their once safe, neighbourly HDB or condo is now full of strangers.
In April this year, the URA announced that it was considering proposals for owners of condominiums who were looking to rent out their property on Airbnb style platforms. The measures, similar to the en bloc mechanisms already in place, would allow such owners to carry out short term rentals if at least 80% of the other owners agreed to it (80% in this case would be 80% of the share value of the development).
Those that welcomed the apparent softening of the government’s stance should refrain from being too hasty in their celebrations. Three months later in July, the same department released another statement saying that first of all they were in no particular rush to make changes to the current legislation, and that if they were the 80% level mentioned was perhaps too low.
Something does need to be done and at some stage there will be changes and clear guidelines put in place. What those will be however, are still anyone’s guess.
Latest new launch in Singapore