‘Homestays’ are a looming menace in residential areas

I have lived in a residential gated community for the past 15 years. It has had its ups and downs, but nothing like the recent uncontrolled proliferation of “homestays” in our community.

In all honesty, these are nowhere near the concept of a “homestay” but are in reality a holiday home rental.

These unregulated holiday rentals have taken full advantage of the lack of laws pertaining to this business and have become a menace to those residents of the communities where they are located.

The operators have absolutely no regard for the residents in the area where they have set up camp, and they probably flout every law of the local council as well.

Below are some of the issues and concerns shared by many of the residents, which have yet to be addressed by local councils and state governments.

Noise all day and night, never mind the pollution (garbage) left behind the next day. It is only the tip of the problem.

Stray cats, dogs and monkeys spread the garbage around for a day or two until the regular waste removal people come by twice a week. They are not contracted to clean up. The area is now infested with vermin, which may hang about until the next rains or some community-minded person cleans it up.

Since the revenue value of a “homestay” with a swimming pool is way more than that of one without, almost all the homes converted overnight have had some form of pool installed.

Without a doubt, none has had planning permission and they probably do not meet any safety standards (if there are any here in Malaysia) for swimming pools.

The pools are filled with treated drinking water from the tap, at the same rate that a home would pay for domestic water. Since the filtration systems installed are budget ones, the pools are re-filled regularly.

I am not sure what safety or lifesaving equipment is on hand.

The pool next door is filled way past capacity with people from sunrise until very late at night. It’s only a matter of time before there is an accident. Must there be loss of life before the authorities take action?

Overcrowding and the associated joys of a “homestay”.

People renting these properties take full advantage and fit as many people into the place as possible.

The one next door usually has between 7-10 carloads of people for a night. More often than not there are much more people staying than the stipulated maximum of 30 that is advertised.

As the place is a mirror image of my home, I know it has only four bedrooms and three bathrooms, two being en-suite. The plumbing systems in these places were not designed for this capacity. It’s only a matter of time before it fails.

The place down the road had 25 cars last night and the noise went on until well after 3am: our fun-loving temporary neighbours called it a night at 2.30am after the owners were contacted a number of times.

Our community is made up of mostly permanent residents, some retired, while others are working people with school-going children.

The influx of carloads of inconsiderate people on weekends, public holidays and school holidays (when “homestays” fetch a premium) is not only extremely annoying but a huge disruption to the community.

Roads clogged with abandoned cars, people in the streets shouting and making a noise at all hours of the night, cars and bikes racing on our village roads at all hours, hooting and car alarms going off … we might as well live in the city.

I pay domestic rates for my utilities as I live in my home. The “homestays” in our area should be paying commercial rates for their electricity, water and sewerage services.

They are making a small fortune by turning their domestic properties into full-time holiday rentals.

They should be licensed and regulated and pay municipal land rates and taxes associated with commercial premises.

The water rate at my office is three times the rate for minimum use as is with the other utilities.

Health and safety checks should be enforced on the homestay premises. I wonder if any have basic firefighting equipment. A bungalow with grilles on all entrances, locked at night with 30 tenants asleep inside, in a strange location – it will be a disaster should a fire break out.

My office fire extinguishers need checking yearly and approval certified before my business licence can be renewed.

As a gated community, all residents are encouraged to pay for the security services. The influx of strangers and their vehicles has put a huge burden on this service and created an additional burden on residents associations.

To add insult to injury, there are a number of “homestays” belonging to the same people. More often than not they refuse to contribute to the security services that they advertise their prestigious property is located in, not to mention the abuse these unwanted residents give the security guards carrying out their duties.

I really do feel for the people who have invested in a bungalow or home, renovated it with pride and invested a small fortune into the upgrades for their retirement in a nice quiet suburb or community and then have some inconsiderate investor purchase next door and do a rush upgrade to cash in on this “homestay” phenomenon.

The home-owners will soon realise the nightmare next door is real, the value of their property has just fallen through the floor and nobody in their right mind other than a “homestay” pioneer would purchase their pride and joy.

Last but not least, the current government is under huge financial constraint and pressure after scrapping the GST and paying back the 1MBD debts.

It may want to investigate this very lucrative industry of untapped resources. I very much doubt that this undeclared cash income is in any way taxed.

With these “homestays” fetching RM1,000 and RM2,000 per night, at 52 weekends, and throw in some public holidays and school holidays, I now understand why they are taking over some of the quieter residential communities.

What is being touted as a homestay in many residential areas is far from the original concept, and does nothing for those it was intended to help.

Unless the state governments and local councils do something, this menace is going to manifest itself into something really ugly and very hard to reverse and regulate in the near future.

Richard Chapbell is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.