Ban short-term rentals or introduce laws quickly

PETALING JAYA: The Federal Government should learn from the Penang government which has banned short-term rentals in the state, thus helping the state’s hotel industry to survive, says Malaysia Budget & Business Hotel Association (MyBHA) president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel.

He said the government should hasten the implementation of short-term rental accommodation (STRA) laws, adding that there is no legal framework governing STRA operators which will potentially hurt the entire hotel industry.

“We have had enough statements saying that ‘more studies’ are needed. The issue has been simmering for many years.

“If we don’t take action now, there may be a higher risk of irresponsible short-stay operators who are willing to go against the law,” he said.

Sri Ganesh cited the incident in Sabah where a hidden camera was discovered in one of the short-term rentals.

“This incident has affected our country’s image as a tourist destination. The company can say they are banning the owner (from operating again). But who will make sure that they don’t repeat the same offence?” he asked.

On Monday, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry said it is the right time for STRA, especially Airbnb, to be legally registered and regulated.

In a statement, it said the ministry’s secretary-general and counterpart from the Local Government Development Ministry will also discuss solutions to ensure that industry players comply with the regulations and requirements.

Special zones for short-let accommodation such as Airbnb are also being considered as part of the government’s moves to regulate the business.

Meanwhile, short-term rental operators welcome measures to regulate the industry.

Brandon Goh, who operates 21 Airbnbs in the Klang Valley, said introducing regulations will ensure that there are entry barriers for those looking to begin leasing their properties as short-term rentals.

“Short-term rentals are sprouting like mushrooms and this leads to the issue of unprofessional operators who compromise quality in return for more monetary gains. These operators may also provide unsatisfactory services to customers which give responsible operators a negative image.

“This puts the entire short-term rental industry in a bad light, when in fact, there are those who are striving to ensure clients are given the best services,” he said.

Among the regulations he suggested is to empower the joint management body (JMB) of high-rise residential buildings to decide who could operate short-term rentals in their premises.

“This way, it guarantees only professional operators can set up businesses there while also promoting a healthy competition which benefits guests,” he said. Airbnb operator Eng Joe Ann, 27, said any specific “hosting zones” for operators will raise important concerns that need to be addressed carefully before moving forward.

“The goal should be to strike a balance between promoting the sharing economy and preventing an over-saturation in the market,” she said.

Eng also welcomed the move to regulate the industry, adding that it is needed to ensure responsible and sustainable operations.

Among the measures that could be taken, she said, is to ensure all STRA hosts meet certain standards and obligations, while also requiring Airbnb investors to apply for licensing before operating on the platform.

Eng added that STRA operations should also be limited to non-subsidised housing to ensure the housing market remains stable.

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