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Are short-term rentals like those offered by Airbnb, Roomorama, etc legal in Singapore? There are obviously lots of listings, and Roomorama is actually headquartered in Singapore, but there's also a lot of fulmination online about “illegal vacation rentals”. However, reading the small print, while subletting Housing Development Board (HDB) public housing is clearly against the rules (fines up to S$200,000 and loss of flat!), I can't find anything about the status of private accommodation.

I'm also curious about enforcement or lack thereof, since I take it the rules were originally put in place to stop people from turning their flats into dorms, not catering to short stays of a few nights.

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There are many hotels in Singapore, so obviously short-term rentals are legal. It sounds like what you're really asking about is subletting, though? –  Flimzy May 13 at 12:57
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Clicky the linky. Hotels are licensed and regulated via the Hotels Act (Sec. 127), I'm asking about the legality of random unlicensed people renting out their apartments for short periods. –  jpatokal May 13 at 23:21
    
Of course they are regulated. But rentals are still legal--if you follow the regulations. Your question is similar to asking "Is it illegal to drive in New York?" I say "No" you say "But driving is regulated!" –  Flimzy May 14 at 1:57
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The Hotels Act defines a hotel as a "a boarding-house, lodging-house, guest-house and any building or premises not being a public institution and containing not less than 4 rooms or cubicles in which persons are harboured or lodged for hire or reward of any kind"; it's thus not even possible to register a single apartment as a hotel. –  jpatokal May 14 at 2:17
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So how about you post an answer saying that then, so it can be downvoted into oblivion as pointless hair-splitting? Or are you genuinely having a hard time understanding what the phrase "short-term rental like those offered by Airbnb" (hint: not a licensed hotel) means? –  jpatokal May 14 at 5:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

This turns out to be surprisingly nuanced. In short, while officially discouraged, short-term rentals are legal, or at least not illegal, in Singapore.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the Singapore government body responsible for private housing, makes it quite clear that:

Private residential properties or their rooms within the premises should not be rented out on a short-term basis for less than 6 months on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

And quite a few third-party sources go on to conflate this with the HDB's legal prohibition on sublets, with the URA also doing its best to blur the two. But a rather fascinating answer on Quora by James Chua, CEO of Singapore-based short-term rental company PandaBed.com, quotes his own laywers:

" ...the Guideline is not law as it is not codified in a statutory instrument. The URA, in response to a query from the public, made a statement in The Straits Times on 26 May 2012 in which it conceded that the Guideline was not a ‘ruling’, but stressed that the URA “issue[s] guidelines from time to time to provide transparency and clarity on how the URA exercises its functions under the Planning Act” ... "

And goes on to summarize:

  • Short-term renting is NOT ILLEGAL for private property
  • The popular "6-month minimum rental period" quoted widely in the press is not a law but a guideline by the URA (Leasing guideline)
  • Owners of short-term rental homes should ensure guests don't cause disturbance to the neighbourhood or they are at risk of getting in trouble with the URA
  • The URA has the authority to take action only if guest causes disturbance to the neighbourhood.

Singapore being Singapore, the URA will probably at some point "scare the monkeys by killing a chicken" and make an example of some poor Airbnb host who rented his apartment to a bunch of frat boys who terrorized the neighbours... but at least for time being, it's OK to host, and it's OK to stay with a host. Yay!

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Great answer, I always wondered about that. However, I have to say that the quote of James Chua does sound a little bit like those of e-cigarette vendors claiming that it's legal to smoke on planes. –  drat May 15 at 7:23

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