IT is normal for houses to be rented out for income, and rooms let out to reduce the cost of renting or owning a dwelling.

A tenancy agreement is typically signed between the owner and tenant for rental of a house or apartment, with two months’ rent as deposit plus an amount equivalent to one month’s rent for utilities.

Rooms are normally let out with just a verbal understanding, and tenants move in after paying a month’s rent in advance and another equivalent amount as deposit. Generally, these arrangements have worked well and do not require intervention of third parties or regulation by the authorities.

But there’s a new concept of renting out space that’s becoming popular now – Airbnb, a peer-to-peer online marketplace and homestay network that enables people to list or rent short-term lodging in their residential properties – that could be a cause for concern in certain areas. Airbnb offers a good option for those who wish to let out a room or two in their house or apartment to earn some income. The problem is an increasing number of people are letting out rooms in apartments and houses they are not living in, and some do not even own the properties.

They make a business out of subletting, which the owners may not be aware of or approve, and have little concern for the safety and security of their guests and neighbours.

An unruly group of university students occupying a house or apartment is enough to cause disturbance in the neighbourhood, what more when strangers keep moving in and out of a condominium unit at all hours of the day and night throughout the year.

Even ordinary people can be unintentionally dangerous when occupying a room or building not designed for use as a hotel.

For example, if guests turn on all the air-conditioners in a house or apartment at full blast non-stop, the electrical supply system is likely to overload. Apart from forgetting to turn off a gas stove, a smouldering cigarette butt could also ignite a fire as guests are unlikely to exercise the same level of care as they would in their own house.

Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman recently warned that private residences used for short-term stays face higher risks of fire and the danger is compounded by illegal renovations to create more rooms.

The authorities must act in concert before tragedies strike.

Firstly, local authorities should licence all parties that rent out rooms in houses and apartments they are not living in, or renting out whole houses and apartments for short-term stay.

These properties should pass inspections by the Fire and Rescue Department and be subject to commercial tariff for utilities.

Licences should only be issued if there is no objection by neighbours or long-term residents in condominiums.

In this way, short-term guests are protected and the businesses pay tax. Failure to do so would only encourage unlicensed businesses and illegal operators to mushroom in our country.

The traditional tourism industry must also be prepared for the challenges posed by Airbnb, which recently launched Trips, a service through which locals can offer guided tours and other experiences to travellers. When flights and other services are added, licensed travel agencies and tour operators could be displaced.

Source : http://www.thestar.com.my/
YS CHAN Kuala Lumpur

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