Are Short-Term Rentals Illegal in Singapore?


Singapore has some of the strictest Airbnb and home rental laws in the world. Cities across the globe have been clamping down on short-term rentals over the past few years, and since the arrival of vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and other vacation rental sites, the world’s top cities have found it increasingly difficult to control rent prices. So, are short-term rentals illegal in Singapore? Here’s the lowdown.

Illegal Short Term Rentals

As it currently stands in May 2019, short-term rentals are illegal in Singapore — much to the disappointment of Airbnb and similar vacation rental platforms. Airbnb and other home rental platforms have been pushing for a change to the regulations in Singapore for years, and after around four years of discussion, on May 8, 2019, it was ruled that short-term rentals will remain illegal in the city and a minimum stay of three months will apply to vacation rentals in private homes. Airbnb’s head of public policy for South-East Asia Mich Goh said: “After nearly four years of consultation, it is disappointing that the discussion has not moved forward.” Understandably, this is bad for the vacation rental business in one of South East Asia’s most popular vacation destinations.

Singapore’s decision was followed by extensive research made by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) who came to the conclusion that the policy of illegal short-term rentals is better for the city and its residents. The URA, therefore, wanted to uphold the existing regulatory framework. The URA spoke to tenants, residents, developers, and many other different groups in local society in order to reach a decision that was fair for Singaporeans. There was a commissioned national survey of thousands of private homeowners in order to gauge public opinion. From this survey, it was reported that the main concerns of homeowners and tenants are that short-term rentals could compromise the surrounding residents’ security and privacy. Homeowners are mainly concerned that tourists will damage common facilities, cause trouble, and invade privacy.


Three Month Minimum Rental Period

Short-term rentals are illegal in Singapore and law states that there is a minimum stay of three consecutive months in a private property. This rule is aimed to ensure housing markets stay regulated and prices for Singapore’s residents can be controlled. If the property has been acquired the Housing & Development Board (the HBD), the rules are similar, however, the law states that it is a six-month month minimum rental period. HBD flats cannot be rented to tourists at all, and they can only be rented to foreigners who have long-term visit passes or student passes.

The rules for both HBD flats and private flats also applies to single rooms rented, even if the owner is present. This is a different policy to cities such as New York, where homeowners are permitted to rent rooms for as little as one night, so long as the tenant or homeowner is present during the time of rental. 

In rare cases in Singapore, some homeowners have been granted permission by the URA to host short-term rentals. If you’re looking for a short-term rental on platforms such as Airbnb, be sure to check with the host that they have permission to rent short-term from the URA.


Short-Term Rental Demand

Tourists want short-term vacation rentals and landlords or tenants elsewhere have been meeting this demand. This has seriously disrupted the rental industry in major cities as for landlords, or tenants, it’s much more profitable to rent to tourists for a few days at a time, than it is to rent long term. Singapore is an incredible city to visit and explore, and tourists usually stay for less than a week — meaning that the majority of tourists are only interested in a short-term rental. 

Singapore follows in line with cities such as Barcelona and Tokyo, who have strict short-term rental laws. Singapore has, however, managed to control the short-term rental industry in a more successful way due to the rule of a minimum stay of three consecutive months.


Finding Short Term Accommodation in Singapore

If you really want to stay in a private apartment during your stay in Singapore, you can look at sites such as AllTheRooms nad Booking.com who list apartment-hotels. These usually come with their own kitchenette, living-room area, and common area, offering the same level of privacy as a private apartment. It’s a pretty good alternative to having your whole own apartment. You could also consider staying in suite hotels, which offer more personal space than your average hotel room. Other options include staying in family-run B&Bs, where you can get a more local feel to your stay. 


Going Against Law

Regardless of the law in Singapore, some homeowners or tenants still continue illegally renting their property. This is because that while the risk of being caught is high, the chance of making good money can be very tempting. However, we suggest not chancing staying in an apartment that’s being illegally rented as a short-term rental. You run the risk of being kicked out of the apartment mid-stay if someone reports the illegal rental to the authorities. If you’re willing to rent a room or an apartment regardless of warnings, always make sure you check that the vacation rental is safe before booking. Be wary of unofficial online vacation rental platforms offering short-term apartments to rent.

There are also not as many homeowners going against the law in Singapore as, for example, in New York. In Singapore, repeat offenders may be fined up to S$200,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 12 months. If a homeowner or tenant continues with a short-term rental, even after the conviction and fine, the owner can be fined up to $10,000 for each extra day of the rental after conviction, alongside running the risk of a jail term.


Restrictions on the No. of People in One Apartment

Generally, in Singapore, there are legal restrictions on the number of people who can stay in a property at any one time. This depends on the location and size of the property. So even if you’re renting for longer than the short-term requirement, you must check that there are not too many people in the apartment. Always do your research before booking.

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