Rising tensions over Airbnb rentals

Romesh Navaratnarajah11 Jul 2016

new house

It is illegal for homeowners in Singapore to sublet their houses to tourists.

There appears to be growing tensions over users of short-term rental services like Airbnb, with the latest case involving a woman who went to great lengths just to take her neighbour to task for accommodating guests via the popular home-sharing website, reported TODAYonline.

Madam Wendy Ng, Managing Director of an air-conditioning company, said the frequent comings-and-goings of guests at the four-storey terraced house next to hers made her feel insecure over the neighbourhood’s security.

Ng, who lives in a terraced house at Penaga Place in Sembawang, revealed that she had postponed or cancelled all of her company’s jobs over the past two months in order to deal with the problem, which started two years ago.

“Every time, (there are) different faces, that means their faces are not local … so we feel insecure,” she said, adding that some guests left or returned to the house in the middle of the night.

Last August, Ng raised the issue with the Member of Parliament of her constituency, Khaw Boon Wan, who also serves as Transport Minister.

Thereafter, officers from the URA’s appointed agent, Certis Cisco, tried to inspect her neighbour’s place, but the house was locked.

Taking a different course of action, Ng hired a private investigator in May to gather photographic and videographic evidence of what was really going on in the property for a week. She submitted the investigator’s report to the URA on 8 July.

Although the assignment cost her “a few thousand” dollars, Ng said she was willing to spend this “expensive” sum.

Ng also filed a petition asking the authorities to take “immediate action against the errant owner”.

While the petition has been signed by 37 residents, some said they were not affected by the guests.

“It’s part and parcel of living in a community. The complaint has no standing,” said Raymond Lee, who lives across from Ng.

Urging for mutual respect, 31-year-old housewife Fadilah Ishak said her family’s safety and security were not compromised.

Notably, complaints by disgruntled homeowners like Ng have been growing steadily in the last three years.

In the first half of this year alone, the URA said it received 259 complaints on short-term stays. It also received 231, 375 and 377 complaints in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.

A public consultation exercise was conducted last year in order to seek feedback on whether to allow short-term stays in private homes. The URA, however, noted that the exercise did not bring about a “clear consensus”.

While the public acknowledged the need to accommodate the growing demand for short-term rentals, they also strongly endorsed the existing rules of the URA, which are meant “preserve the privacy and sanctity valued by the vast majority of homeowners”.

As such, the agency said it needs more time to study the matter and reiterated that the six-month rule for private home stays “must be observed”.


Romesh Navaratnarajah, Senior Editor at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email romesh@propertyguru.com.sg

Aug 30, 2016
Given the expansion of the airports..terminal 4 n 5 n demolishment of hotels such as ANA Hotel n Marco Polo Hotel..is there a mismatch of planning for hotels arising in escalating costs of hotel stay n hence the need of more budget accommodations..i suggest that more hotel sites are to be situated next to the world heritage site ie spore botanic gardens n a new convention fnb n entertainment centre at damsey areas..or may be enlarged commercial spaces to capitalise on the touristy nature of the spore botanic gardens..will URA be more forthcoming on the future plans of these areas..why is there a need for height restrictions at spore botanic gardens areas etc?
pak on wong
Jul 11, 2016
Some of the strange happenings which were illegal and taboos during the Lee Kuan Yew era are happening under the broad daylight, we are becoming a third world nation instead of the Swiss standard of living.

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