Singapore court imposes hefty fines for Airbnb rentals

SINGAPORE — A court in Singapore on Tuesday fined two men 60,000 Singapore dollars ($45,800) each for breaching laws banning short-term rentals by renting out condominium units through online services such as Airbnb, Craigslist and HomeAway.

Terence Tan En Wei and Yao Songlaing had pleaded guilty at the State Court in February to four charges of illegally renting out four units last year, in the first case of its kind in the Southeast Asian island nation.

Defense lawyer Wong Soo Chih said prosecutors had requested a fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars ($15,267) per charge but the judge set it at 15,000 Singapore dollars ($11,450) per charge.

Offering short stays in private homes is illegal in Singapore, where most residents live in subsidized public housing. The minimum rental period had been six months, but has since been reduced to three months. Officials have said the rule minimizes disturbances to neighbors.

Despite these limitations, Airbnb continues to thrive in the city-state, where the platform has over 8,000 active listings. Last year, 350,000 guests stayed in Airbnb apartments in Singapore, according to the company.

Airbnb said in a statement after the sentencing that it will work with Singapore's authorities to allow the fair use of home sharing.

"We believe that an individual should, minimally, be able to share the private residence that they live in; and that no individual should be criminalized for sharing their home," said the statement from Mich Goh, Airbnb's head of public policy for Southeast Asia.

Describing the issue as "complex and multifaceted," the statement said the company looks forward to clarifying the rules through an upcoming public consultation and supports "a framework that allows responsible and sustainable home sharing to thrive to Singapore's immediate and long-term benefit."

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