May 7, 2012

A rising number of homeowners are earning extra income by renting spare rooms to paying guests for a few days, even advertising on short-term accommodation websites.

Over the last five years, the practice has become more common on websites like Airbnb, Wimdu, 9flats and Roomorama, where residents have been promoting spare rooms in their houses and condos. There are over 230 listings currently available on Airbnb.

Typically, a room is rented out for as low as S$40 a day. Apart from a place to sleep, some hosts also offer hotel-style services like breakfast, complimentary ez-link cards and free toiletries.

According to a spokesman for the URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority), private residential properties may only be rented out or sublet for six months or more, as ‘transient occupiers’ could inconvenience other residents.

The URA said that it will investigate such cases and inspect the properties. If caught, owners will be issued an enforcement notice. If it continues, they could be liable to a fine of up to S$200,000 or a one-year jail term, or both.

One host said he was unaware of the URA ruling when he listed his shophouse in Chinatown on Airbnb, as he only wished to meet new friends from around the world.

He recalled that since January, about 10 guests had been renting a spare room in the apartment, which he shares with a housemate. He added that the rental earnings have offset nearly a third of their monthly rent.

He also said that guests were mostly quiet and his neighbors have not complained. Despite the risk, he noted that he would still continue hosting.

Meanwhile, the websites assured that their terms and conditions encourage users to abide by the laws. Airbnb said that it will continue to educate users on the importance of observing regulations.

Info courtesy -