Man fined SGD 1.16m for subletting properties on AirBnB, HomeAway

CNA – A Singaporean man was fined around SGD 1.16 million yesterday for providing unauthorized short-term accommodation on platforms including AirBnB and HomeAway.

Simon Chan Chai Wan, 57, rented 14 units and sublet them for short-term accommodation. His girlfriend Zhao Jing, 43, was fined SGD 84,000 for helping him.

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

He pleaded guilty to nine counts, while Zhao pleaded guilty to four counts. Under the Planning Act, first-time offenders can be fined up to SGD 200,000 per charge.

Both Chan and Zhao were licensed real estate agents at the time, according to court documents.

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

Court documents showed Chan rented various private residences to provide short-term accommodations to 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. Properties include Claremont, Centrepoint Apartments, Caribbean at Keppel Bay and Robinson Suites.

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

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

“(Chan) rented units for the purpose of subletting them for short-term housing,” court documents said, adding that he also persuaded Zhao to enter into rental agreements with the owners of two of the units. Throughout the rental period, Chan and Zhao did not inform the owners of the accommodations that they were being sublet for short-term accommodation. They knew it was illegal, according to court documents.

In addition to helping Chan rent two units under the program, Zhao also helped him create and manage guest accounts on the AirBnB platform and post listings for the units.

She registered the first guest account on AirBnB in 2016 as “Jing” and listed several units. She also handled guest reservations, answered inquiries and updated the calendar.

“Without Zhao’s help, Chan could not have carried out the STA operation. Chan dealt with matters outside of the accounts, i.e. the day-to-day running of the units,” court documents said.

Investigations showed that Chan illegally provided short-term accommodation in 14 premises from June 30, 2017 to July 2018. The total income he obtained was SGD 1,254,907.78.

Zhao was paid SGD4,000 per month for helping him with the project. Between June 30, 2017 and August 3, 2018, she received an income of approximately SGD 52,000. Chan pleaded guilty to nine counts under the Planning Act, and five more were considered for sentencing.

Under URA regulations, all private residential properties rented for lodging purposes are subject to a minimum length of stay of three consecutive months.

“Landlords must also exercise due diligence to ensure that their properties are not used by their tenants for unauthorized purposes,” the URA said.

“Unauthorized short-term accommodation with frequent turnover of overnight guests not only alters the residential character of a property, but also causes inconvenience to neighboring residents.

“The URA will continue to take strong enforcement action against offenders in short-term accommodation, including landlords, tenants, agents and anyone who has participated in such unlawful activities, in order to protect the interests of the community.

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