Government to seek views on home rentals for short term

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said his ministry was considering two proposals: a new category of homes for short-term rentals; and lowering the minimum rental period of residences from the current six months.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said his ministry was considering two proposals: a new category of homes for short-term rentals; and lowering the minimum rental period of residences from the current six months.PHOTO: ST FILE

Maximum duration of rental in a year, safety and privacy of other residents among possible issues

The guidelines around a new category of private homes for short-term rentals will become clearer in the coming months, with the Government set to engage both industry stakeholders and the public in the second quarter of this year.

Among the issues that could surface are the maximum duration that homes can be rented out for in a year, whether the new category would apply to residences in a specific area, and how best to ensure the safety and privacy of other residents in the area.

The consultation comes amid some criticism of the measures that National Development Minister Lawrence Wong floated in Parliament last Monday.

Parliament passed laws that make Airbnb-style rentals illegal, in line with Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) guidelines in place since 2009. But Mr Wong also said his ministry was considering two proposals: a new category of homes for short-term rentals; and lowering the minimum rental period of residences from the current six months.

On short-term rentals, which cater mainly to tourists, the authorities are seeking feedback to come up with "safeguards against negative externalities", the Ministry of National Development (MND) said in response to queries. It noted that residents have raised concerns about safety and privacy arising from the comings and goings of transient visitors.

 
 

The URA received 608 complaints last year, 61 per cent more than the 377 in 2015. There were 375 complaints in 2014.

The MND also sought to distinguish between the kind of guests both proposals would attract. Referring to the lowering of the minimum rental period, it said: "This review concerns conventional residential tenancies rather than short-term subletting, which is typically conducted on a daily or weekly basis."

It added: "The move is meant to allow homes to be rented to those who are in Singapore for extended periods but cannot commit to a lease period of at least six months."

The MND did not give details, but industry watchers said this group could comprise medical tourists, or those working on events and projects that require them to be temporarily based in Singapore.

Still, some industry watchers are sceptical about the suggestions.

Despite URA officers getting new enforcement powers to investigate breaches after amendments to the Planning Act were passed last week, International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong predicts difficulty wielding them with regard to shortened leases. "If you reduce the lease to three months, people will complain that it's not short enough. But if it's something like one month, it'll be taxing for officers to make sure it's adhered to," he said.

He also panned the proposed new category, saying it would further complicate regulations for a market saturated with hotels, hostels and serviced apartments.

But Suntec Real Estate Consultants director of research and consultancy Colin Tan suggests that the new category could include owners of shoebox apartments or city-centre homes, where families are less likely to reside.

"The new category, depending on its form, would balance safety and space constraints... with being forward-thinking about the sharing economy," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Govt to seek views on home rentals for short term'. Print Edition | Subscribe