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Singapore Airbnb hosts fined US$45,800 for unauthorised rental of luxury flats

Pair were charged under regulations that ban homeowners from leasing property for less than three months without approval from authorities

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2018, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2018, 8:55pm

Two Singaporean Airbnb hosts were Tuesday fined S$60,000 (US$45,800) each for letting out flats without official permission, the first such case in the city state under new rules against short-term rentals.

Housing agents Terence Tan En Wei and Yao Songliang had previously pleaded guilty to illegally renting out four flats in a luxury private condominium in central Singapore.

Prosecutors said the pair had listed the flats on Airbnb, which allows homeowners to share their homes for a fee by marketing them online, and other holiday rental sites.

The duo made S$19,000 (US$14,500) from renting the flats between May 15 and June 21 last year, according to court documents.

They were charged under regulations introduced last May banning homeowners from leasing property for less than three months without approval from authorities.

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Housing is a sensitive issue in rich but land-starved Singapore because more than 80 per cent of the population lives in government-subsidised properties.

When the men were first charged, an Airbnb spokesman said rules in the city state do not reflect how Singaporeans use their homes and travel, and the company hoped to work with local authorities to find a way forward.

Airbnb 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 the service.

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.