Take time to contemplate issues on short-term rentals

I applaud the Urban Redevelopment Authority for deciding to take time on the issue of short-term rentals ("URA needs more time to look at short-term rentals"; yesterday).

While Singaporeans embrace new business models and technological advancements, we must also be mindful of the social responsibility of keeping peace with all our neighbours in a high-density space, and the need for vigilance for the sake of public security and safety.

Short-term rentals are a new business opportunity. But those in favour of it cannot simply rely on all landlords being socially responsible when "sharing" their homes.

We can't expect all landlords to be vigilant about maintaining a strict register of occupants, visitors and their activities.

It is even more difficult to expect all landlords to monitor tenants' activities behind closed doors.

Many condominiums are owned by foreigners and permanent residents, and many HDB homes are owned by PRs. These units may not be permanently occupied by the landlords. Therefore, the authorities cannot rely on absentee landlords to enforce strict adherence to terms of tenancy agreements, compliance with local laws, peaceful occupation and good neighbourliness.

If the authorities approve short-term leases, they would be faced with the huge responsibility of regulating law and order within the confines of private properties.

It is also unfair for all subsidiary proprietors of condominiums to have to pay for the repairs and maintenance of the estate due to more wear and tear, which will be caused by the influx, traffic and utility of condo facilities, on account of short-term tenants coming and going.

Short-term tenancies will also impose unfair expectations on all neighbours to tolerate noise and the sharing of facilities and personal spaces for the benefit of some people, not forgetting the friction that all this may cause.

For the sake of social harmony and public safety and security, I hope the authorities take the time to contemplate these issues carefully.

Sum Kam Weng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2016, with the headline 'Take time to contemplate issues on short-term rentals'. Print Edition | Subscribe