Airbnb must play by Singapore's residential market rules

Airbnb's quest to get its business off the ground in Singapore has been nothing short of self-serving, even after the rules on short-term rentals have been made clear to the company and its clients (Airbnb hopes for official role in S'pore; March 7).

Does Airbnb know how many properties listed on its site are occupied by their hosts, as opposed to vacant assets being milked by investors, or how many are being rented out by tenants, in breach of their leasing contracts?

In its campaign to be legalised, Airbnb has wilfully glossed over a whole host of issues that may inconvenience the vast majority of homeowners who treat their estate like a home, and not a hotel where strangers come and go.

The company has also not proven that it can play by the rules in a socially responsible way.

Singapore should allow short-term rentals only at properties that are developed and fit for such purposes.

We must ensure that establishments like Airbnb uphold appropriate hospitality standards at all times, including proper security vetting of hosts and guests.

Above all, these businesses must be taxed commercial rates.

This approach to legalising short-term rentals is far more tenable, sustainable and progressive for our densely populated island, where privacy can command a premium.

If Airbnb wants an official role in the hospitality game here, then it must learn to adapt to the norms of Singapore's residential market, and not the other way around.

It can start by rejecting all listings that are deemed illegal today, as well as sending the names of these listers to the authorities.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2018, with the headline 'Airbnb must play by S'pore's residential market rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe