April 3, 2018 / 5:57 AM / 17 days ago

Two Airbnb hosts fined in Singapore's first such case

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A Singapore court fined two Airbnb hosts a total of S$60,000 ($45,800) each on Tuesday for unauthorized short-term letting, in the first such case under the city-state’s rules on short-term property rentals introduced last year.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of d'Leedon condominium in Singapore December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

The two men had pleaded guilty to four charges each for letting four flats in a condominium for less than six months without permission from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

They faced a fine of up to S$200,000 per offense under Singapore law. Prosecutors sought fines of S$20,000 per charge for a total of S$80,000 for each of the two defendants. The defense sought fines of S$5,000 per charge.

Judge Kenneth Choo on Tuesday fined the two hosts S$15,000 per charge each, saying this would also serve as a signal to deter others from pursuing such illegal business.

Private homes are subject to a minimum rental period of three consecutive months, while for public housing, home to about 80 percent of Singapore’s residents, it is six months.

The issue of short-term accommodation in private homes is complex and multi-faceted, and has wide-ranging implications, the URA said in a forum letter in the Straits Times on Monday.

The URA plans to conduct a public consultation on a proposed regulatory framework for short-term letting soon.

“It will take some time to work through the consultation process and to amend legislation, if necessary, for the new rules to take effect,” the URA letter in the paper says.

A high-population density and limited land mean most of Singapore’s 5.6 million people live in apartments.

“We look forward to obtaining greater clarity for our community following the upcoming public consultation,” said Mich Goh, Airbnb’s head of public policy for Southeast Asia.

Airbnb, founded in 2008 in San Francisco, matches people wishing to rent out all or part of their homes to temporary guests. It previously indicated that it was willing to make some concessions on short-term rentals in Singapore in an attempt to appease concerns of the government.

Wong Soo Chih, the two hosts’ lawyer, said they paid their fines on the spot. She called the fines “fair and reasonable”, but questioned whether it was premature in view of the upcoming consultation.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Nick Macfie and Himani Sarkar

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