2 Singapore men plead guilty over illegal Airbnb rentals

Airbnb is sued by a guest over host's alleged sexual harrassment. Reuters

Two Singaporean men pleaded guilty for illegally renting out condominium units for less than six months, where short-term rentals are considered illegal. This is the first such case has been reported in the city after the authorities prohibited short-term rentals.

The accused, Terence Tan En Wei and Yao Songliang were pleaded guilty to renting out four luxury condominium units last year without legal consent. During the hearing, the prosecutors informed the court that the accused men were actually real estate agents, and they listed the flats on Airbnb, a platform which allows house owners to market their homes for rentals online. The convicts also made use of Craiglist and HomeAway to find their potential customers. As per reports, they charged somewhere around S$150-S$441 for a single night stay.

By renting the four condominiums, the duo has reportedly made S$19,000. Considering the grave nature of the legal violation they committed, the deputy public prosecutor Selene Yap asked the court to give them a penalty of S$80,000 each. The court will pronounce the final judgment in April 2018.

Housing is a very sensitive issue in Singapore, where more than 80 percent of people stay in government-subsidized flats. Airbnb is now considered a very cheap alternative to hotels, and many people even make out a living by renting out condominiums and apartments for a short stay. On May 2017, authorities banned the renting and leasing of homes for less than three months. Earlier, the minimum time period to rent out a home or condominium was six months.

Airbnb has been facing continuous criticisms from Singapore authorities for years, as they claim platforms like these are worsening housing shortage in the country. Even though these limitations persist, in 2017, 350,000 guests stayed in Airbnb apartments in Singapore, the company confirmed. It should also be noted that there are now more than 8,000 active listings in the Airbnb portal.