GEORGE TOWN: Local authorities have sprung into action and homestay operators found operating without licence have been fined.
In a spot check by officials from four departments of the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), four unit owners in Birch Regency Condominium in Datuk Keramat were fined RM250 each for operating a business without licence.
They knocked on the doors of 15 units believed to be available for rent on a short-term basis and found four being occupied yesterday – two units by Singaporeans, one by Australians and another by Canadians.
“The officers spoke with the foreigners who confirmed they were here on holiday. We explained that this was a residential block not meant to be treated like a hotel or service apartment and they understood,” said Tanjung MP Ng Wei Aik who took part in the checks.
But one of the unit owners waited outside to have his say after Ng’s press conference at the condominium block.
“I don’t run an illegal homestay. I am earning rental from my unit here and it is my legal right. Please don’t say I am doing something illegal,” retiree Ch’ng Kim Teck, 50, who waited by the condominium swimming pool, told the press.
Ch’ng said there were no laws to forbid condominium unit or apartment owners from renting out their units for any length of time.
He added that MBPP’s Commissioner of Buildings (COB) had confirmed in a letter dated April 12 that the Joint Management Body (JMB) had no right to set a rule that unit owners could not rent out their properties for under six months.
“The COB confirmed that we only need to inform the JMB that our units have been rented out and once that is done, all the rights to use the condo facilities are transferred to the tenants,” he said.
Ch’ng claimed that to restrict access to the condo facilities such as the swimming pool, the JMB set up fingerprint scanners so that only long-term residents whose fingerprints are recorded could use it.
“They made all the residents have their fingerprints recorded but we wrote to the police who confirmed to us that only certain enforcement authorities and banks are allowed to collect our fingerprints,” he said.
He added that he and other hosts had filed a complaint with the Strata Management Tribunal against their JMB.
Three of the JMB committee members, who were present in the press conference with Ng, said they were only doing their duties as elected members.
“We get many complaints from our fellow residents about these short-stay guests. We’re just doing our duties to protect the peace of our condominium,” said a committee member who only wanted to be known as Raymond.