Two men were brought to court on Tuesday (5 December) for illegally leasing out four condominium units for short-term stays via Airbnb, reported Channel News Asia.
34-year old Yao Song Liang and 35-year old Terence Tan En Wei each faced four charges under the Planning Act, which prohibits converting the use of a property for short-term stay without URA’s approval.
The duo, who are expected to plead guilty to the charges next month, are accused of renting out the units located in three different blocks at D’leedon Condominium along Farrer Road.
Court documents stated that the premises “were occupied by the same person(s) for a period of less than six consecutive months in return for the payment of rent,” in violation of regulations.
Since the case is the first of its kind here, URA prosecutor Douglas Neo requested a six-week adjournment to file submissions.
URA has investigated over 1,000 private homes between 2014 and 2016 for violation of the minimum stay duration or an average of around 330 properties per year.
For the first nine months of the year, however, URA investigated around 600 properties or almost twice the number investigated for each of the last few years.
First-time offenders face a fine of up to $200,000. In case of a continuing offence, the offender may be further fined by up to $10,000 for each day or part of a day that the offence continued the following conviction.
Commenting on the prosecution of the duo, Airbnb noted that Singapore’s current framework for home sharing “doesn’t reflect how Singaporeans travel or use their homes today” while standing in contrast with the country’s commitment to innovation.
Nonetheless, it remains “strongly committed” to collaborate with the authorities in finding ways to allow home sharing within the city-state.
“We have collaborated with authorities around the world, developing clear and sensible frameworks that allow home sharing to thrive, while addressing each city’s unique challenges and concerns. We remain strongly committed to doing the same here in Singapore, working alongside the government to find a way forward for home sharing, both to Singapore’s immediate and long-term benefit,” it said.
Airbnb revealed that it helped drive $324 million of economic activity in Singapore last year. The platform helped Singaporeans earn extra income, with the average host earning $4,700 a year.