PETALING JAYA: Although the government has declared that Airbnb is legal, apartment and condominium owners may only rent out their units on the popular app if their management’s bylaws permit it, says a Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) official.
For some time now, there have been calls for online accommodation service, Airbnb, to be regulated – much like how e-hailing services Uber and Grab are now legislated – with some warning of the safety and security risks posed to neighbours of those renting out their units on a daily basis, though Putrajaya has made its stand on the matter clear last year.
Speaking at a dialogue organised by the Rehda Institute here yesterday, Md Azmi Mohd Shari, a legal officer from DBKL’s valuation and property management department explained a federal government circular pertaining to the use of Airbnb to rent out strata properties.
He said a circular from the urban wellbeing, housing and local government ministry states that in the case of strata properties, a management body’s by-laws will determine whether units in a building can be rented out via Airbnb.
“Residents have to check their apartment or condominium by-laws. If the management allows it then it’s ok, if they don’t, then residents should abide by the relevant by-law on the matter.
“If the building’s by-laws does not allow it, then residents who are aware of neighbours flouting the by-laws, should lodge a complaint with the management,” Azmi said, adding that the management can then impose a fine of up to RM200 on residents who flout the by-laws.
He said that as Airbnb was a relatively new issue, many management bodies had yet to decide on this in their annual general meetings (AGM) or extraordinary general meetings (EGM).
“So it’s up to the management bodies to decide on whether to allow it in their building or not. It must be brought up at their AGM and EGM.
“They must also specify whether the RM200 fine will be issued on a per instance basis, per night and so on.”
Azmi added that if residents of an apartment or condominium complained to DBKL that the issue had yet to be addressed at an AGM or EGM, they could inform DBKL who could then instruct the building management to conduct an EGM on the matter.
Azmi said if the management does not take action according to its own by-laws, then residents can report the management to their local council’s Commissioner of Building, who can then charge the management body’s members in court.
“They risk a fine of up to RM250,000 and a jail term of up to three months.”
Regulation the way forward
For Chris Chan, who owns a condominium near KLCC, the issue isn’t whether Airbnb should be allowed, but rather if it should be regulated.
“Some will say that renting out a unit on Airbnb can lead to security issues, but security issues can also exist without Airbnb,” she told FMT.
“The problem isn’t Airbnb, the problem is security guards and management bodies who don’t do their jobs properly. Even now, outsiders can often gain access to apartments and condominiums if security is lax.”
Chan said that at least with Airbnb, home owners were renting out their units to a person who used their identity card and credit card as cash payments weren’t allowed.
However, she did concede that the way forward was in regulating Airbnb, with the right measures in place to ensure owners declare to the management that they are renting out their units.
“Perhaps every time a Airbnb guest arrives at the property, their proper ID verification should be carried out and the amount of access cards given to guests could be limited,” Chan said.
She added that the owners who are renting out their units must also be contactable by the management or security should any issues arise while their property is being occupied by Airbnb guests.
Managing new regulation
Property expert Ernest Cheong however, believes that it would be difficult, if at all possible, to manage and monitor the regulation of Airbnb.
“Security in apartments and condominiums is lax enough as it is. Once an owner passes their access card to Airbnb guests, it’ll be difficult for the security guards to monitor and control their movements.
“I fear that Airbnb could be misused for illicit activities and residences end up being treated like vice dens.
“The best thing is to just ban the use of the app outright, adding that some countries have placed restrictions on Airbnb, including barring short term rentals,” Cheong said.
Airbnb, which has gone from a small start-up in 2008 to a company worth some US$30 billion (RM127 billion) has a presence in 191 countries around the world.
In Malaysia, some 11,698 accommodation providers were listed on Airbnb as of April this year.
Airbnb rentals in Malaysia can start from as low as RM44 per room per night to just over RM1,000 for an entire house which can accommodate 10 people or so, with some including facilities like private swimming pools.