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    Dec 17, 2014

    Give views on renting of private homes for short stints

    THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is to seek public feedback on whether rules on short-term rentals of private homes should be changed.

    The move follows a rise in popularity of websites like Airbnb that allow owners to rent out their places for short stays, often at prices cheaper than hotels.

    In September, Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan called on the Government to study the implications of this issue.

    The URA says that current short-term stay guidelines are meant to "safeguard the amenity and living environment" of a residential development, and to ensure that residents are not "adversely affected by the frequent turnover of transient occupiers".

    However, URA told The Straits Times that it will conduct a survey to gather feedback on the issue. It said: "Given the current public interest on the matter, URA will be carrying out a public consultation to assess if there is a need to review the policy."

    Currently, it is illegal to lease a home for less than six months in Singapore. Private home offenders can be fined up to $200,000 and jailed for up to a year.

    A search on Airbnb, Roomorama and travelmob turned up more than 2,000 local listings.

    "We are thrilled that this conversation is happening," an Airbnb spokesman said. "We believe Singapore should join other leading global cities like San Francisco, London, Paris and Amsterdam, which have all reformed outdated housing rules to allow for home sharing."

    A 41-year-old business owner who has let out a room in her Novena condominium unit on Airbnb since January described the consultation as "encouraging". Most of her guests are tourists who stay for a few days. "Many of us host for financial reasons," she said. "I'll be relieved if what I'm doing is not considered illegal."

    But such practices pose competition to hotels and serviced apartments, according to Margaret Heng, executive director of the Singapore Hotel Association. "Equally critical to the tourism how do we ensure safety, security and hygiene standards in private outfits," she said.

    "If the rule is removed or shortened, then it may be necessary to look at whether there is a need to license private premises that are being rented out."

    Since last year, URA has received 575 complaints about the alleged rental of individual strata-titled private residential properties for less than six months.