Has Singapore Learnt Its Lessons for Short-Term Rentals?

TL;DR - It actually did, Mad props to the URA.

Short-term rentals in Singapore get no love. The public is encouraged to suss out illegal short-term rentals. Even the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has an online portal where you can submit a report. It reached peak public consciousness back in the 2010s, as Airbnb set up shop in Singapore. They practically spawned the term ‘staycation’ then, and everyone just ate up the idea of staying at a Singapore condo rental, or an HDB apartment rental for the short term. But as we prepare to ring in the new year, will the gahmen cash in on the red-hot rental market? Or will they wait and see what happens next?

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Are short-term rentals really unpopular in Singapore?

You’d think that landlords would want to capitalise on Singapore condo rentals. Yet the law regulating short-term rentals came on the back of a 61 per cent increase in complaints regarding short-term rentals between 2015 and 2016. Under the new regulation, the number of unrelated tenants in private apartments has been lowered from eight to six, in addition to the increased tenancy duration for residential properties.

Then, in 2019, the URA commissioned a nationwide survey to gauge the stakeholders’ sentiments about short-term rentals. In the end, they found that most private homeowners feel that short-term rentals attract unruly tenants that cause nuisance and disrupt the peace.

In the end, around 7 out of 10 saw short-term rentals as a threat to privacy and security in their estate. Respondents were also worried that short-term tenants would damage the facilities at their development. Condominium Management Corporation Strata Titles (MCSTs) are weary of taking up extra responsibilities to maintain and guard against unruly tenants.

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So it’s no wonder most of them supported URA’s rules to cap short-term rentals at 90 days. While it’s still possible for strata-titled developments to run short-term rentals, homeowners need 80% approval before they can operate short-term rentals, and the vote has to be renewed every two years.

Even so, short-term Singapore condo rentals remain attractive for landlords looking to earn some extra cash, even if they are outlawed. In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic fudged everything up, the URA investigated 800 suspected cases, up from 750 in 2018.

And who doesn’t love a staycation? Short-term rentals are usually made up of apartment rentals in Singapore. They usually have more spacious living spaces than hotel rooms. Some of them even come with fully-equipped kitchens. Plus, Singapore condo rentals also include swanky amenities like swimming pools, saunas, and tennis courts. It’s all perfect for a little soirée over the holidays, so it’s no wonder you can still find over 1,000 properties on Airbnb’s Singapore site.

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Singapore vs The World

With all the new regulations, Singapore has one of the most restrictive home-sharing regulations, even as it has one of the highest homeownership rates in the world. Most other major cities in the world do have laws to regulate short-term rentals, though not as constraining.

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What’s next for short-term rentals in Singapore?

The URA is firm in its stance on adopting a more measured approach. After their 2019 survey, they have maintained that they are open to implementing a new framework for short-term rentals in the future. 

Of course, short-term accommodation operators want a more flexible regulatory framework. But things are not in their favour. In addition to opposition from private homeowners and MCSTs, most recent renters are looking to rent between three and six months. Most of them are academics and students, as well as professionals on medium-term work assignments.

The URA did float the idea of introducing a different class of residential properties that can be used for short-term rentals. But the notion has been met with a lukewarm response. This would likely increase the cost of the property while leading to increased competition between neighbouring homeowners. Besides, we doubt that current condo homeowners and long-term tenants of Singapore condo rentals would like to see their fancy condos converted into a free-for-all resort. Not to mention, there are all these Singapore serviced apartments and hotels sprouting up.

Singapore’s biggest restriction is probably its lack of land. This scarcity has trickled down to renters and homebuyers in the form of higher prices. New housing supply won’t do much to alleviate supply woes given the rising popularity of long-term rentals, and diverse types of housing may well be a pipe dream. For now, we can only wait and see.


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