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Is Airbnb Illegal in Singapore?

Tan Siew Ann
·6-min read

Wishing to earn extra income from renting out your property? Listing on home-sharing website Airbnb is an increasingly popular option for Singaporeans to lease out their property to foreigners on a short-term basis for extra income.

According to the Straits Times, there were an estimated 7,000 Singapore property listings on Airbnb as of November 2016. An Singapore host can also earn an average of $5,000 a year from listing their property on Airbnb.

However, you are likely to be in breach of Singapore’s housing laws when renting your property out on Airbnb. In general, property rentals have to be at least either 6 months long (for HDB flats) or 3 months long (for private properties). HDB flats also cannot be rented to tourists.

Here’re more information on 3 ways that listing your property on Airbnb can get you into trouble with the law:

1. You rent your Housing Development Board (HDB) flat out to tourists

People looking for accommodation on Airbnb are usually tourists. However, HDB flat owners are not allowed to rent out their flats to tourists. Flats can only be rented to foreigners who hold passes such as Student Passes and Long-Term Social Visit Passes.

HDB flat owners who exceed their flats’ occupancy limits when renting out their flats may be fined or have their flats compulsorily acquired by HDB.

2. You rent out your property for too short a period of time

Property rentals need to be of a certain minimum duration, which may be too long for people looking for accommodation on Airbnb.

HDB flat owners

(keeping in mind that HDB flats cannot be rented to tourists in the first place)

HDB flat owners are not allowed to rent out their flats for less than 6 months. Those who do so may be fined or have their flats compulsorily acquired by HDB.

Private residential property owners

As of 30 June 2017, owners of private residential properties are prohibited from renting out their property for less than 3 consecutive months. This is unless they have permission from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to do so.

Private residential property owners found guilty of renting out their property for less than 3 months can be fined up to $200,000. If the rental continues even after conviction, the owner can be fined up to $10,000 for each extra day of rental after conviction (or part thereof).

Repeat offenders are subject to the same consequences, in addition to a possible jail term of up to 12 months.

Former property agent Joel Su Jiqing was fined $158,000 for subletting six residential units in Geylang for illegal short-term stays through Airbnb.

This fine consisted of a $46,000 fine to account for the profits that Su had made from the illegal rentals (after deducting lease payments), as well as a separate $112,000 fine to punish him for his offences.

3. You rent out your property to too many people at one time

There are legal restrictions on the number of people who can stay in a property at any one time. This will affect the number of tenants that property owners can rent their property out to.

HDB flat owners

(keeping in mind that HDB flats cannot be rented to tourists in the first place)

If an entire flat is being rented out, the number of tenants who can stay in the same HDB flat at any one point in time is:

  • 4 persons, for 1- and 2-room flats; and

  • 6 persons, for 3-room flats and larger.

If only the bedroom(s) in the flat are being rented out, then the number of people who can stay in the same HDB flat at any one point in time (including the flat owner and his/her family) is 6 persons for 3-room flats and larger.

(Owners of 1- and 2-room HDB flats are not allowed to rent out their bedroom(s).)

HDB flat owners who exceed their flats’ occupancy limits when renting out their flats may be fined or have their flats compulsorily acquired by HDB.

Private residential property owners

As of 15 May 2017, up to 6 unrelated people are allowed to stay in a private residential property at any one time. Any more than that and the URA’s permission will be required.

Property owners who stay in their properties with their families (including domestic workers and caregivers) will only be able to take in tenants until the total number of people living in the property reaches 6.

If the number of people from an owner’s family who stay in the property already exceeds 6, the owner will not be able to take in any more tenants.

Private residential property owners found guilty of exceeding the occupancy limit when renting out their property can be fined up to $200,000 and/or jailed for up to 12 months. If the rental continues even after conviction, the owner can be fined up to $10,000 for each extra day of rental after conviction (or part thereof).

Is It Legal for Guests to Stay in Airbnb Properties?

There are no laws preventing guests from staying in Airbnb properties in Singapore.

But in light of Singapore’s housing laws (as mentioned above), there is a risk of Airbnb guests with confirmed bookings being turned away by building security, as has happened in the past.

While listing your property on Airbnb may seem like a good way to earn extra income on the side, you should be aware that doing so is illegal if the property in question is an HDB flat to be rented out to tourists.

Even if you live in a private residential property, the legal restrictions on the minimum rental period and/or the occupancy limit also make it difficult for you to legally list your property on Airbnb.

It is currently not illegal for guests to stay in Airbnb properties in Singapore. But given how short-term rentals are illegal in Singapore for property owners (and most Airbnb rentals are short-term rentals), potential Airbnb guests should book their stays at their own risk.

Having recognised that the home-sharing economy is here to stay however, the Government is exploring options to allow short-term rentals in respect of certain types of private homes. Stay tuned.

The post Is Airbnb Illegal in Singapore? appeared first on SingaporeLegalAdvice.com.