It’s a modern day horror story–the tragic tale of how two HDB flat owners got their homes confiscated by the authorities after renting out their flats on Airbnb has struck fear into the hearts of indignant Singaporeans. Welcome to Singapore, where the biggest thing threatening your home isn’t a natural disaster or fire but the heavy hand of the HDB.
Still, judging by the number of listings on Airbnb, scores of people are still renting out their properties. If you own a condo unit or a house, you might think you can rent your property out to tourists with impunity, since URA has not clamped down on private property owners after all these years. But make sure you bear in mind these five things first.
1. Know that it’s illegal, but that private property owners have been untouched up to now
Now, we’re not—gasp!–suggesting you do anything illegal. But if you’re going to break the law, at least know why. In Singapore, short-term rentals of less than 6 months duration are illegal, whether you live in HDB or private property.
Unfortunately for folks who live in HDB property, HDB has the power to confiscate their homes. But so far, judging by the number of listings on Airbnb, the authorities have not bothered to clamp down on private property owners yet.
2. Screen your guests rigorously and don’t rent your place out to troublemakers and serial killers
Just as people who use Tinder should not go around meeting 14-year-old girls or potential serial killers, you should refrain from renting your place out to any Tom, Dick and Harry who’s willing to accept the listed price.
One of the concerns cited by the government is that the living environment of other residents will be compromised. As such, it is important to ensure you do not rent out your place to guests who you suspect will throw big parties or destroy the shared facilities.
If your guest is renting your place to throw his 21st birthday party, asks how many guests are allowed, inquires about alcohol delivery services or has bad reviews, you might want to think twice about letting this person into your home.
3. Be prepared to provide extra services
Okay, we’ll be honest, the main reason tourists choose Airbnb over hotels in Singapore is because the latter are so darned expensive.
But still, you’ll run into many tourists who see Airbnb as an opportunity to enjoy cultural exchange with nice locals and learn a bit about Singapore.
You will from time to time run into that tourist who just can’t stop asking questions about local culture or wants to know where he can get the best local food. Be prepared to play tour guide to these people if you want to get good reviews.
4. Your place, your rules
Since you’re going to be an (illegal) landlord, you get to set the rules. Make sure you think long and hard about things you want to prevent your guests from doing, and communicate these rules to them before they hand over the money.
You obviously want to ensure they do not infringe any of your condo rules, or you could find yourself in big trouble, not only with the condo security folks but also with the law.
If you’ve had previous run-ins with security after one loud party too many, you probably want to forbid your guests from using your karaoke machine after a certain hour. You also want to ensure your guests know how to dispose of trash properly and do not try to suntan nude by the swimming pool.
5. Monitor the news
While only HDB owners have been burnt so far, that doesn’t mean all you private housing owners can sit back, smirk and congratulate yourselves for being able to afford private property. It really isn’t that hard for the authorities to make a house call if they want to, since you’re advertising the fact that you’re illegally subletting your home on the internet for all the world to see.
And while you can feel relieved that your home can’t be confiscated, you can technically be fined up to $200,000 or jailed for up to 12 months. Anybody who wilfully breaks the law should monitor the news like a hawk and act fast at the first sign of trouble.
Do you think the government should relax the rules on short-term rentals? Share your views in the comments!