Many Private Homes Are Not Legally Allowed To Host Tourists

With Singapore having one of the top home-ownership rates in the world, one might get the impression that home-sharing would be a boom here.

Contrary to that belief, Singapore still has heavy regulations that prevent such trends from latching on.

Prosecution for disobeying the rules

On 5 Nov, two men faced charges for reportedly renting out four condominium units to users of the popular online home-sharing platform, Airbnb.

This went against rules that prohibited home-owners from renting out their homes below the stipulated minimum rental period set by the Housing Development Board (HDB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The case was the first such prosecution to take place here.

Taking into consideration the vast spectrum of homes in Singapore, we can assume that we may see more of such cases in the future. But just how legal is it to host foreign tourists in your home?


Definitely-don’t-even-try-level illegal

If you own a HDB flat like the majority of Singaporeans, the prospect of being a Airbnb Host is not even an option for you.

HDB disallows its residents to sublet or rent out their spaces below the minimum period of six months.

This means that the only foreign individuals you’re allowed to rent your flat to are those with Student Passes or Long-Term Social Visit Passes – definitely not hitchhikers.

Those found disregarding these policies may face a fine or, depending on the severity of the case, have their flats reacquired by HDB.

If you don’t want to lose your home, I highly suggest you comply.

Maybe-you-can-try-level illegal

For those with private residential properties, such as landed housing and condominiums, you might be tempted to give this a try, like many existing Airbnb hosts.

After all, it is 100% your own property.

Here, private residential properties refer to: condominiums, private apartments, walk-ups and residential homes built on privately owned land.


Like HDB however, the URA – who is the reviewing authority for private properties – has also set a minimum rent duration for such spaces.

Until 30 June 2017, private property owners were bound by the same six-month minimum rule as mentioned previously.

It has now been reduced to a minimum of three consecutive months, to be more competitive towards serviced apartments.

Owners may apply with the URA for short-term rental of your spaces but it’s unlikely that the application will be approved as the URA considers the security and comfort of your neighbours more than the potential earnings you may received.

Potential Airbnb landlords should also be aware that certain public housing rules do apply to Executive Condominium (EC) until the property matures beyond their 10th year.

In 2017 alone, the URA has investigated the owners of over 600 properties, suspected of subletting their units without proper permission.

It’s unknown if any of these 600 properties have applied for permission before (and got rejected) or have been reprimanded. For there are many of these types of homes and rooms still listed on Airbnb.

After all, it’s only illegal if you get caught right?


Probably legal

Lastly, let’s consider certain properties that fall within the legal grey area of whether owners of these properties are allowed to rent out their spaces to tourists.

For example, shophouses are the most flexible properties on the island.


They are able to convert from residential to certain commercial spaces without the need for permission by the URA.

Because there are no explicit restrictions on shophouse spaces being rented out, they seem like a safe place for you to host guests.

Renting laws are still developing

Unlike many other dos and don’ts in Singapore that are clearly set out, the rules on using our properties for the purpose of supplementing our income is still in its developmental stages.

This explains the grey areas within the legality of adopting personal property sharing systems such as Grab and Airbnb in our society.


Airbnb has stated that it’s working closely with the government in straightening out the rules of home-sharing.

For now, the government remains firm on prohibiting short-term subletting among our homes, but is still looking towards classifying some homes as “suitable” for home-sharing.

Until we know exactly which properties will be allowed to accommodate our international friends, owners have to carefully consider the risks of “illegally” renting out their spaces for the time being.

Featured image From Twitter.