Airbnb needs to respect S'pore laws

Airbnb is engaging in double talk (Two Airbnb hosts charged over illegal home sharing in first case under new laws; ST Online, Dec 5).

On the one hand, it says it is working with the authorities to make short-term rentals work here.

On the other hand, it continues to allow its website to be used for activities that contravene Singapore's laws.

Singapore's rules on home sharing are clear.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is right to restrict the leasing of private residential properties to at least a three-month tenure - a concession from the previous six months.

A private residential property should not become a public, commercially driven hotel, where guests come and go on a daily basis.

Such a turnover is a major hassle for residents, including the added cost of security and maintenance, among others.

Properties for short-term rentals should be restricted to a new "hybrid" category of real estate.

Only the owners of these properties - not its tenants - can lease them on a short-term basis, and they should be taxed a "hybrid residential-commercial" rate to level the playing field with other hospitality players.

The URA must also come down hard on anyone, including industry players like Airbnb, who continues to lease out rooms and apartments at unapproved properties.

It is time for Airbnb to morph into a more socially aware and responsible organisation, and show respect for the laws of the countries that it operates in.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2017, with the headline 'Airbnb needs to respect S'pore laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe