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Monday, Jun 9, 2014

Singapore

Two lose HDB flats for renting them to tourists

Monday, Jun 9, 2014

Home-rental websites like Airbnb and Roomorama have become more popular. According to Roomorama, it had some 500 listings for Singapore properties last month, an increase of 30 per cent from last year.

Consider this a warning for those thinking about making a quick buck from renting their homes to short-term visitors.

Two home owners have lost their flats after the Housing Board found they had let out their units to tourists.

Home-rental websites like Airbnb and Roomorama have become more popular here.

The founder of Roomorama, Ms Teo Jia En, told The Straits Times last month that the website had some 500 listings for Singapore properties, which is an increase of 30 per cent from last year.

A search on travelmob turned up more than 630 local listings, and another portal, Airbnb, has more than 1,000.

But these flout HDB and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) regulations, which state that when a home (HDB or private) is leased out, it must be for at least six months.

Though there have been complaints in the past, and the housing authorities have investigated thousands of cases, this is the first time that HDB has revealed it has taken the step of booting out home owners for the infraction.

While the agency would not say when it took back the executive flat in the east, and the four-room flat in the west, it did say that its investigations proved the owners had leased out the flats to multiple tourists for between $25 and $75 per night.

It also issued a warning to one more flat owner in the central part of Singapore.

According to its spokesman, an errant home owner can also face a financial penalty.

The HDB investigated 184 cases of short-term leasing in public flats last year. It investigated 106 cases the year before.

A spokesman for the URA, which has oversight over private dwellings, said that in the first four months of this year, it investigated 350 cases of "unauthorised use" of private properties.

Last year, it investigated 2,100 such cases, which included instances where home owners turned their apartments into dorms for foreign workers.

Private homeowners who flout the six-month minimum rule face a maximum fine of $200,000 and a jail term of up to 12 months.

Said the URA spokesman: "Some home owners are turning their homes into boarding houses and leasing rooms out for a couple of days to generate quick income from spaces they can spare."

But most other home owners do not want to live among transient strangers, the spokesman added.

An HDB spokesman said other residents felt the frequent change of occupants would pose security concerns.

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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