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Man fined SGD1.16M for subletting properties on AirBnB, HomeAway

CNA – A Singaporean man was fined about SGD1.16 million yesterday for providing unauthorised short-term accommodation on platforms such as AirBnB and HomeAway.

Simon Chan Chai Wan, 57, leased 14 units and sublet them out for short-term accommodation. His girlfriend Zhao Jing, 43, was fined SGD84,000 for aiding him.

The fine imposed on Chan is the largest amount given to a person in Singapore for such offences, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said.

He pleaded guilty to nine charges, while Zhao pleaded guilty to four charges. Under the Planning Act, first-time offenders can be fined up to SGD200,000 per charge.

Chan and Zhao were both licensed real estate agents at the time, court documents showed.

They were also the directors of two companies – HTM Solutions and HTM Management – for certain periods between 2016 and 2018.

Court documents showed that Chan leased various private residences to provide short-term accommodation to both local and foreign guests through the three companies, according to court documents.

The 14 units were in areas such as River Valley Road, Orchard Road, Killiney Road, Robinson Road and Keppel Bay. The properties include Claremont, Centrepoint Apartments, Caribbean at Keppel Bay and Robinson Suites.

The units were in properties such as Caribbean at Keppel Bay and Claremont in Killiney Road. PHOTO: CNA

The transactions took place on various platforms, including AirBnB and HomeAway, which allowed users to post listings for apartments or houses for short-term stays.

“(Chan) leased units for the purposes of subletting them out for short-term accommodation,” court documents said, adding that he also persuaded Zhao to enter into tenancy agreements with the owners of two of the units. Throughout the tenancy period, Chan and Zhao did not inform the owners of the units that they were being sublet out for short-term accommodation. They knew that doing so was illegal, court documents showed.

Besides helping Chan rent two units as part of the scheme, Zhao also helped him to set up and manage host accounts on the AirBnB platform and to post listings for the units.

She registered the first host account on AirBnB in 2016 under the name “Jing” and listed several units. She also managed guest reservations, answered enquiries and updated the calendar.

“Without Zhao’s assistance, Chan would not have been able to carry out the STA operation. Chan took care of matters outside of the accounts, that is, the day-to-day running of the units,” court documents said.

Investigations showed that Chan illegally provided short-term accommodation at 14 premises from June 30, 2017 to July 2018. The total revenue that he obtained was SGD1,254,907.78.

Zhao was paid SGD4,000 monthly for helping him in the scheme. Between June 30, 2017 and August 3, 2018, she received an income of about SGD52,000. Chan pleaded guilty to nine charges under the Planning Act, with another five taken into consideration for sentencing.

Under URA’s regulations, all private residential properties rented out for accommodation purposes are subject to a minimum stay duration of three consecutive months.

“Property owners should also exercise due diligence to ensure that their properties are not used by their tenants for unauthorised purposes,” said URA.

“Unauthorised short-term accommodation with frequent turnover of transient guests not only changes the residential character of a property, but also causes disamenities to neighbouring residents.

“URA will continue to take strong enforcement actions against short-term accommodation offenders, including property owners, tenants, agents and anyone found to have assisted in such illicit activities, in order to safeguard the interest of the community.”

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