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Airbnb’s popularity is booming and growing fast as the first pick for a vacation stay in Malaysia. Airbnb hosts in Malaysia collected US$48.1 million last year, more than double the US$23.3 million in 2016. Bringing the concept of short-term rental, Airbnb operates by having homeowners sharing their properties to public for tourism and commercial purposes. Plus, taking a look at the Airbnb listings, we can’t help but to go gaga over all the beautifully decorated homestays with competitively affordable price tags.

However, despite all the pros, there are cons to hosting or renting an Airbnb, and the legal disposition on short-term house stay in Malaysia remains unclear. The government reportedly endorsed home-sharing service by simply underlining that it is legal as long as no fraud or foul play involved. Falling back to the personal nature of the agreement between the host and the renter, there is no official regulations for the do’s and don’ts for Airbnb. Nevertheless, here are some insights:


Property Management (Joint Management Body) Actually Has A Say

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It goes back to the property management of a residential building to take actions on any home-sharing issues. This means that they can even ban or prohibit Airbnb services, especially if the property is under strata title. Some condominiums are already being stamped with the big NO for Airbnb while others have taken a lighter measure by putting restriction of not allowing access to the pool and other residential facilities.

According to a representative from DBKL, residents of apartments or condominiums will have to check the management before Airbnb-ing their home. It is okay only if the management allows it; if they don’t, then residents should abide by the relevant by-law on the matter. In the case that this is not observed, then complaints can be lodged and fines may be issued up to RM200.


What are exactly the issues with Airbnb?

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Although it may not be a frequent occurrence, there have been complaints or concerns raised by residents about Airbnb or short-term rental. A significant one includes the concern on security issues of having Airbnb guests freely accessing the building. This is especially the case for apartments or condominiums with security system that involves card access.

Allowing more people, especially outsiders, into a secured residential building would mean that tighter security is needed to avoid any unwanted incidents. On top of that, supervision on the amount of guest access cards given out should be regulated as well in order to ensure residents’ safety. Unfortunately, this is not yet a common practice for most apartments and condominiums in order to accommodate the sudden burst of Airbnb hosting.

Other frowned upon issues are noise problem where renters or guests show little respect to the neighbors by blasting out loud music, hosting parties, inviting people over, and even bringing pets into the property. Illegal parking, misused of common facilities and cleanliness issues are some of the other cons of allowing unsupervised hosting of Airbnb.


Different States, Different Take on Short-Term Rental

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Outside of Kuala Lumpur and the greater Klang Valley area, Airbnb and short-term rental stay is actually blossoming and spreading out all over Malaysia, and some states have taken measures to regulate the industry.

Sabah, for example, has officially confirmed that it is illegal to lease properties through Airbnb. According to Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK), the reason is that the method of the service was by way of license and not tenancy; Airbnb is a commercial activity because it is a short-term stay, it has absence of exclusive possession, and it requires housekeeping services which should be licensed.

While the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry supported that Airbnb is a business, it considers an apartment as a residential property and hence cannot be used for commercial purposes. However, with the constant changes happening in the short-term rental industry, there is no mention on how long this Airbnb ban in Sabah will fare.

Meanwhile in Penang, it was reported that the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had issued fines to residential property owners who rented out their property for short-term stays. The main reason explained is that the short-term rental operators or landlords violated the law provisions stating that their properties are for residential purposes only.


Divided Community Response

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A few reviews and experience shared online by Airbnb users and guests show that there have been instances when they were greeted with banners in the lobby stating that the residents objected to Airbnb, hence showing a clear message that the guests were not welcomed. Although, this may look harsh but it is not the case for all.

Many still support the idea of home-sharing as it is a great alternative to earn extra income in the competitive property market. Needless to say, the divided responses are inevitable, but there is still room for acceptance as long as the short-term rental services is regulated with proper guidelines.


Conclusion:

In short, it may take time for Airbnb or similar short-term rental services to be fully adapted with supporting regulatory laws in Malaysia. Until then, what say you on this matter? Should apartments and condos ban Airbnb? Or is it okay as long as guests respect the other residents?

Share us your thoughts on our Discussion page.


(Written by Aisyah Shukor, 25th September, 2018)


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Totally banning short stay is totally not acceptable especially now in the current depressed rental markets. The person who handles should take the precaution especially in the take their NRIC or passport of the guests. Also find out more of their professsion. Hope this helps in filtering out the illegal activities...

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(1)I am staying at Regalia in KL and am a first-time homeowner. Currently it is one of the hottest places for home sharing and Airbnb. When I got this place years ago, I was told it will be a place good for professionals as it is near KL central and will be quiet as well since at that time most of the tenants was office workers and expats. Now the living condition of this place has deteriorated so badly that I am not even sure it is livable anymore for long term tenants and home owners. I bought this place as my first home and was very happy even though the unit was small. But there are many who bought it for investments and when the housing market became unfavorable. Many dabbles with Airbnb and soon found out it is very good income. I have no more neighbors that I recognised anymore. Almost every day I will have random strangers around the corridor talking loudly and being noisy. The rubbish room will always be full of rubbish that are not properly disposed off and also contributed to cockroach infestation. And the so-called guests (customers) of all these hosting is not only loud and rude but have totally no consideration for people living there. They literally thrash the place. My private car park has been parked illegally so many times and when they leave, they literally chuck all their rubbish on the floor of the car park. Even early in the morning around 3am to 4am, you will have these customers talking or shouting loudly at the common garden area thus disrupting sleeps for people who needs to work. The gym equipment is always out of service due to damage, both pools are full of tourist, the common wall near the lifts area are dirty with cigarette burn marks and shoe soles marks etc etc.

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  (2) Not to mention now the hosting are done by professional host management agencies whereby they managed it for the owners to do Airbnb. They will keep their house keeping staff staying in one of those units so that it will be convenient for them to manage. These staff are mostly foreigners and I am not even sure whether they are documented or not, but will have master access card to all levels of the floors whereby homeowners are only allowed specific access to your unit’s floor. When you have unregulated Airbnb services like these, it is very unfair to the legitimate people who own and stay there. Sometimes when it was too noisy and I come out to complain, these customers will get aggressive and self-justified for their anti-social behaviors because they paid to stay there. When supporters of Airbnb said it is not fair to the host that are making money out of it if there’s regulations and all. What happened to fairness regarding people who do really live there and it’s their only home?