BE nice. Buy fruits for your guests or colouring books for their kids and potentially make RM8,000 or more each month renting your apartment or house to short-stay tourists.
The key performance indicators for home-share operators are the guest reviews on their listings in global marketplaces like Airbnb and HomeAway.
“My guests and I review each other. It’s like Uber (global ride hailing app). You will know your guests’ reputation and your guests will also know yours.
“If anything bad happens, the guests or I can report it to Airbnb and we can be banned,” said an operator in Penang who only wants to be known as Sue, a housewife.
She rents out a house in Batu Ferringhi (RM320 a night) and a condominium unit in Pulau Tikus (RM400 a night) as a host on Airbnb and said her properties were now rated four-and-a-half stars.
The location may seem to be a secondary consideration, with one three-bedroom low-medium cost apartment in Air Itam having a five-star rating on Airbnb.
“It may look like a low-cost apartment from the outside and parking is limited. But it is lovely inside. Love the design and everything,” wrote a reviewer.
From the photos on this listing, the owner had decorated the place with a profusion of wallpaper and the furnishings and paintings within can rival a plush hotel room. There is bed space for up to eight guests and it is only RM150 a night.
But the surge of home-share operators may have inconvenienced neighbours.
Halaman Pulau Tikus management corporation chairman Khoo Boo Eng said his block in Lengkok Berjaya had become the haunt of medical tourists looking for a place to stay while seeking treatment here since several years ago.
He said he had seen medical tourists arrive who were truly sick.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to stay in our residential area. Some of my neighbours are worried that if they had contagious diseases, we would all be at risk,” he said.
He said at one time, nine out of 28 apartments in his block were rented out this way and many unit owners complained about the constant flow of strangers.
“Ours is a small, exclusive residence. We had to install extra security cameras and have a security guard 24 hours a day for our residents’ safety.
“They are making commercial use of their residential properties. We are planning to take them to court and seek injunctions to stop them from renting to short-stay guests,” he said.
Earlier in the week, officials from four departments of the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) carried out a spot check and 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 – two units by Singaporeans, one by Australians and another by Canadians.
Tanjung MP Ng Wei Aik, who was present, said the officers spoke to the foreigners who confirmed they were here on holiday.
However, owners argued that there were no laws prohibiting them from renting out their units for any length of time.
One hurdle they had to go through is the complaints from other condo owners.
“We get many complaints from our fellow residents about these short-stay guests. We’re just doing our duty to maintain the peace in our condominium,” said a condominium committee member.
When contacted, Penang Island City Council Building Department director Yew Tung Seang said there could be a legal loophole that would make it hard for authorities to stop residential property owners from offering short-term rentals.
“Property owners have the right to earn rent and there is a grey area over short-term and long-term rentals.
“But when apartments or houses become like hotels, their operations can become a nuisance for neighbours.
“The council is planning a machinery to control this sort of activity,” he added.
In January, Johor Tourism, Trade and Consumerism committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong was reported as saying that homestay operators at housing estates in the urban areas in the state would no longer be allowed to use the word “homestay” to promote their accommodation.
He said there were plans to regulate and standardise the homestay segment in Johor.
He said many home owners in the urban areas had converted their properties into homestay facilities to cater to customers looking for a short stay.
In the United States’ New York State, legislators tabled a bill last month to ban the advertising of short-term home rentals of less than 30 days, with fines of up to US$7,500 (RM30,000).
“Every day I hear from New Yorkers who are sick and tired of living in buildings that have been turned into illegal hotels through Airbnb because so many units are rented out to tourists, not permanent residents,” Manhattan assembly-woman Linda Rosenthal was reported as saying last month.
It was reported that New York City has over 40,000 home-share listings and each earns an average of US$5,700 (RM23,300) a month.
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Homestays, a booming business