Original homestay services different from short-term rentals

There is some confusion regarding the original homestay services and the controversial short-term rental accommodation.

When the Association of Management Corporations in Singapore (Amcis) started homestay services in 2004, it did not permit any sub-leasing. Each property had to be a home, with the owner residing within the premises to provide hospitality services. Hosts had to be accredited and had to be aged 50 years and over.

The owner-host was reimbursed for the cost of airport transfers, breakfast and dinner, and the expenses of a one-day introductory tour of Singapore, but not the cost of the accommodation or room rental. Any additional service was at the discretion of the host.

The objective of the programme was to provide a meaningful activity for local retirees and help elderly guests who had difficulty following the quick-paced tours organised by tour agents.

Consequently, the tourist-guest paid the same fee regardless of the location or type of accommodation, be it a posh bungalow in the Katong district, a terrace house in Upper Thomson, or a condominium next to an MRT station, because the fee was meant for hospitality services, not accommodation.

For this reason, Amcis HomeStay services were launched with the support of the Singapore Tourism Board with the help of a grant, under a non-profit platform.

In contrast, the current wave of short-term housing offered by platforms like Airbnb has a different rental rate for each property depending on the quality and location because it is a housing alternative for tourists, not a hospitality service.

In its current form, short-term rentals have no hosts to supervise guests. This could result in unruly behaviour leading to the displeasure of their neighbours.

Reverting to the original homestay concept should obviate the need for the 80 per cent majority consent required in condominiums.

Francis Zhan 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2018, with the headline 'Original homestay services different from short-term rentals'. Print Edition | Subscribe