Eagerly awaiting tough short-term rental rules

I am sorry to hear that the New Zealand family's holiday in Singapore got off to a bad start, no thanks to Airbnb (NZ family's Airbnb woes highlight lack of clarity on listings; March 16).

Airbnb seeks to change the hospitality world by luring unsuspecting tourists, like this family, into an illicit activity, as well as by showing utter contempt for Singapore's laws on short-term rentals and the vast majority of residents here who do not wish for strangers to treat their private estate like a hotel.

Moral suasion has clearly failed with Airbnb, just as it has for the travel agent's so-called proactive encouragement to all its hosts to consult local laws and regulations before listing their assets, judging by the proliferation of such criminal activity on its site.

Only the naive will believe Airbnb's promotional hype that foreign investors like the Chinese national who had rented out an entire vacant apartment to the New Zealand family are avatars of the sharing economy when they are not even present to host and immerse their guests in local culture, a unique selling point often touted by the company to butter its "progressive" credentials.

That the company deems Singapore's current regulatory regime for short-term rentals as "one of the most restrictive" in the world is most heartening.

I urge the authorities to aim for the No. 1 spot on this ranking table in the true "kiasu" spirit of our Lion City.

For example, is it far-fetched for Singapore to take a leaf from New York and fine all parties involved with illegal property listings, including Airbnb, via big data regulatory technology?

I look forward to the implementation of a long overdue comprehensive regulatory and enforcement framework to ensure that short-term rentals of residential property in this country do not get out of hand.

It already has to some extent, much to the annoyance of local residents who treat their home as a private sanctuary that they can retreat to in one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2018, with the headline 'Eagerly awaiting tough short-term rental rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe