Short-term home rentals: Don't apply law to only property owners

Above: The exterior of People's Park Centre. Right: Within half an hour from 2pm on May 17, three people were seen with luggage entering and exiting the complex's residential lifts on the ground floor at different times. One of the residential floors
The exterior of People's Park Centre, where short-term home rentals have been thriving.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA's) collaboration with the management corporation strata title of private residential estates to address the short-term rental problem does not address the issue comprehensively (Living among tourists, May 26).

Business is as usual for the home-sharing sites and other brokers who facilitate the illegal activity, never mind URA's warning letters to some of the hosts.

The same goes for those who demand such premises for touristic, business and leisure purposes.

There have been only a handful of convictions, since the planning Act was revised in 2017.

This is modestly lenient for a tax-free, multimillion-dollar industry which continues to indulge in numerous illegal transactions that upset many residents.

How many of these errant residents are property tenants and how many are landlords?

Are whole empty investment properties being rented out, or merely a room in owner-occupied properties for foreigners to experience local life through their hosts, according to the hype generated by home-sharing sites?

Above all, does it make any sense to put the onus of compliance merely on property owners when errant tenants possibly make up a sizeable number of hosts, abetted by industry players like Airbnb?

It is time for the authorities to address the issue by legislating compliance on suppliers like Airbnb and all their hosts, especially property tenants, as well as on the demand side.

Make short-term rentals illegal for all concerned, and put this into practice by banning all forms of short-term property rentals and transactions, both online and offline.

Then demand the details of every single host, guest and property that has participated in the activity from the home-sharing sites as evidence.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2019, with the headline 'Short-term home rentals: Don't apply law to only property owners'. Print Edition | Subscribe