Ex-property agents plead guilty to illegal short-term rentals

Romesh Navaratnarajah28 Feb 2018

Court case

The two men earned at least $19,000 over a period of five weeks.

Earning at least $19,000 over a period of five weeks, two men facing four charges of illegally renting out condominium units for short-term stay via home-sharing sites such as Airbnb pleaded guilty on Tuesday (27 Feb), reported the Straits Times.

While Yao Songliang, 34 and Terence Tan En Wei, 35, face fines of up to $200,000 for each charge, the prosecution sought a fine of $20,000 for each charge or a total of $80,000 per person.

Defense lawyers, on the other hand, sought a fine of $5,000 per charge.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Selene Yap noted that while the offences occurred between 15 May and 21 June last year, the total profits made by the two men were likely much higher given that they had been renting out condominium units at the d’Leedon condo since late 2015.

Yao and Tan, for instance, earned £2,455 (S$4,406) from two guests who rented a 59 sq m flat for 23 nights and 38,823 Philippine pesos (S$1,039) from six guests who rented a similar sized unit for five nights.

To hide their activities, the duo, who were both real estate agents with Savills Residential, “used deception and evasion” by making guests lie about the actual unit they were staying in or leading guests to a different flat to wait out suspicious security guards, said the prosecution.

In February 2017, a URA guideline against short-term accommodation of less than six months in private homes was incorporated in the Planning Act.

On 30 June that same year, the bar was lowered further to less than three months for private homes, while the minimum stay for HDB flats remained at six months.

Meanwhile, Mich Goh, Airbnb’s head of public policy for Southeast Asia, said: “We believe that an individual should, minimally, be able to share the private residence that they live in; and that no individual should be criminalised for sharing their home.”

Nonetheless, she revealed that the company is committed to working with the government in finding a legislative solution that suits the city-state.

Interested in renting a property in Singapore? Check out our collection of guides.


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


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