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Two charged in Singapore for renting out flats on Airbnb

Regulations ban homeowners from leasing property for less than three months without approval from authorities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 5:33pm

Two men have been charged in Singapore with illegally renting out flats on Airbnb, the first such prosecutions there under new rules, local media reported Wednesday.

Regulations introduced in May ban homeowners from leasing property for less than three months without approval from authorities, meaning many short-term rentals on Airbnb should be illegal.

Housing policy is tightly controlled in space-starved Singapore, where 80 per cent of the population lives in public housing which is subsidised by the government.

Singaporeans Terence Tan En Wei, 35, and Yao Song Liang, 34, appeared in court Tuesday charged with illegally leasing out four flats in a luxury private condominium in central Singapore, according to court documents.

The Straits Times newspaper reported that they had used Airbnb. They face a fine of up to S$200,000 (US$148,000) if convicted.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority, which regulates housing, said it would take action against anyone responsible for letting out property for short-term accommodation.

Despite the new rules, California-headquartered Airbnb remains popular in Singapore with the company saying it has over 8,700 listings there.

An Airbnb spokesman said current rules do not reflect how Singaporeans use their homes and travel, and the company hoped to work with local authorities to find a way forward.

“The current framework also stands in contrast with Singapore’s commitment to innovation,” the spokesman said.

Airbnb, which allows homeowners to share their homes for a fee by marketing them online, has become a popular and often cheaper alternative to hotels for many travellers.

But the company has faced mounting criticism that it worsens housing shortages and squeezes the long-term rental sector, with cities including New York, Miami and Berlin cracking down on it.

In Hong Kong, anyone taking in guests for fewer than 28 days has to have a permit to ensure that the premises meet guest-house standards and are safe to use.

In central Paris, rentals are limited to 120 days a year and flats must be registered with city authorities. A similar limit applies in London.