Why It Matters

Provide clarity on short rentals

In case there is any doubt - it is officially illegal to rent out your home for less than six months.

The Planning Act was amended in Parliament last week to make short-term rentals of private homes an offence, to bring the law in line with guidelines in place since 2009.

The authorities also have more teeth now. For example, Urban Redevelopment Authority officers can, if needed, even enter premises without permission to investigate those suspected of running afoul of the law.

But lest one thinks the authorities are declaring war on such rentals, that is not quite the case.

Within the same debate in Parliament, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said his ministry is proposing the setting up of a new category for certain private residences to engage in short-term rentals.

He suggested that new residential sites could be sold with such an approved use, while existing residential buildings would require planning permission for a change of use, subject to a set of guidelines.

 

In a reply to The Straits Times, the Ministry of National Development said there is certainly a place for short-term rental platforms. "What we intend to do is carefully review and consider new policies to better respond to them," it said.

On the proposal for a new category of homes, the authorities said they will garner feedback in the second quarter of this year.

It should note that the industry is awaiting details, and fast, with many stakeholders pointing out that the Government launched a public consultation two years ago but there has yet to be any discernible change.

Some industry observers have suggested that these short leases could be restricted to shoebox flats, or those in the city centre, away from suburban areas where most families reside.

It is not easy to appease those on either side of the short-term rental debate. But the sooner some clarity is provided, the better for all involved.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Provide clarity on short rentals'. Print Edition | Subscribe