Strict legal framework needed to regulate short-term rentals

The absence of appropriate legislation to regulate short-term rentals could prove problematic ("Govt to seek views on home rentals for short term"; Feb 13).

First, such unauthorised rentals go against the ethos of residential properties, which is to provide housing on a long-term basis.

Low-cost accommodation for travellers is, and should remain, the purview of accredited hotels, backpackers' lodgings and the like.

Homeowners should not take it upon themselves to assume the role of hotelier without the required licence and purpose-built premises.

Second, sanctioning short-term rentals severely threatens the security, privacy and comfort of other residents.

Services like Airbnb do not have measures to screen prospective tenants, and renters are not obliged to monitor the behaviour of their guests. This engenders a considerable amount of risk.

That 608 complaints have been received by the Urban Redevelopment Authority is dire enough. Even then, it may not represent the full extent of the problem, since many disputes and incidents go unreported.

Third, it is logically inconsistent to selectively allow the commercial use of some categories of homes, while excluding other types.

A house, by any name, is still a residence, and the specific classification of a unit has little relevance to the impact such activities have on neighbours.

Attempts to limit the permissible rental period do not tackle the root cause of these negative externalities.

Outright prohibition would be difficult to enforce, and would merely drive short-term rentals under the radar.

Hence, it is necessary to introduce stringent oversight by the authorities, via a strict but accessible legal framework.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'Strict legal framework needed to regulate short-term rentals'. Print Edition | Subscribe