GEORGE TOWN: The number of stratified residential properties offering short-term home-sharing or rentals seem to be rising in Penang even though the practice is deemed illegal by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).
Interviews with several Airbnb operators showed even developers with unsold units would furnish them and rent them out for holidays.
“It’s now common, especially in newly-built condos, ” said Ching, a former home-sharing operator.
Another operator, S.H. Tan, said as far as Airbnb operators understood it, there were no issues if the residential property joint management bodies (JMBs) allowed them.
Tan, who manages 32 home-sharing units for owners, said several high rises in Tanjung Tokong and Gurney Drive allowed owners to rent their units out for short stays.
However, a check with MBPP showed no such policy exists.
“It is still illegal to rent out a residential property like a hotel.
“But we are waiting for the state government to issue guidelines on regulating home-sharing operators, ” said a city councillor who declined to be named.
At the state level, a source revealed that regulating home-sharing operators was “not so easy”.
“The National Land Code clearly states that property owners have the right to enjoy rental income from their properties.
“The Code, which is equal to an Act of Parliament, does not restrict tenancy to short or long terms.
“Any regulation we attempt to draft must conform with the Code, or it will breach property owner’s rights, ” the source said.
The Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang chairman Khoo Boo Lim said the government must speed up efforts to regulate home-sharing.
He said he found many instances where tourists who chose home-sharing in Penang felt cheated after they found JMBs barring them from using facilities such as pools.
“It is bad for tourism and tarnishes the state’s image, ” he said.
One such tourist, Spanish visitor Elena Guasch Pescuer, wrote an open letter on July 8 sharing her unhappy experience of renting a condominium in Bukit Gambir.
She described feeling cheated because although the pictures of the place showed a beautiful swimming pool, her family and her were denied access to it.
Adding that short-term rentals of residential homes were particularly damaging to many hotels classified as four stars and below, Khoo called on the state government to regulate home-sharing to safeguard the tourism experience in Penang.
Penang Hoteliers Association and the Malaysian Budget Hotel Association Penang Chapter chairman Datuk Lim Mee Lee said cheaper hotels have been hit hard.
“We have many regulations to follow but home-sharing operators don’t have to worry about anything.
“We must not let this continue.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said his ministry was working with the Malaysian Productivity Centre, trade organisations and other agencies to draft guidelines for local authorities to regulate home-sharing.
“Home-sharing was made possible through technology, and like many disruptive technologies, it is growing faster than regulation.
“So, we are racing with it and we welcome local authorities to take steps to regulate home-sharing themselves, ” he said.