It is customary for houses to be rented out for income, and rooms let out to reduce the cost of renting or owing 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 another month for utilities is the norm.
Rooms are customarily let out with just a verbal understanding, and tenants usually move in after paying a month’s rent in advance and another month for deposit.
Generally, these arrangements have worked well and do not require intervention of third parties or regulation by the government.
For decades, some bungalows and apartments at holiday resorts were also available for rent overnight or slightly longer.
Later, serviced apartments and residences were built in the city. Those put up for rent were competing with hotels, particularly for guests on shorter stay.
However, serviced apartments and residences are subject to commercial tariff for utilities such as electricity and water, and hotels could do little to ward off competition from properties of similar quality.
But this changed when Airbnb came into the picture, as it allows people to list or rent private properties online. It now has over 2 million listings in 34,000 cities and 191 countries.
Those who wish to let out a room or two in the house or apartment they are staying can continue using the traditional method or go online, and Airbnb offers a good option.
But increasing numbers of people are letting out rooms in apartments and houses they are not staying in, including those who do not own these properties.
They make a business out of subletting, which the owners may not be aware or approve. They have little concern over the safety and security of guests or 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 at all hours of the day and night, throughout the year.
Although the majority of foreign and local visitors are normal people like you and I, surely a small number may be of unsound character or mind. Without the close but discreet monitoring of hotel staff, some of these guests will seize whatever chance that comes their way.
Even ordinary people can be unwittingly dangerous when occupying a room or building not designed for use as a hotel.
For example, all the air-conditioners in a house or apartment may be turned on at full blast non-stop. The electrical supply system is likely to overload when many guests are taking hot baths while water is being boiled and other kitchen electrical appliances are running.
Apart from forgetting to turn off a gas stove, a smoldering cigarette butt could also ignite a fire as guests are unlikely to exercise the same level of caution as they would in their own house.
Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman recently warned that private residences used by short-term guests 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 staying, or renting out whole houses and apartments for short-term stay.
These properties should pass inspections by the Fire and Rescue Department and subject to commercial tariff for utilities.
Licences should be issued only if there is no objection by neighbours or long-term residents in condominiums.
In this way, short-term guests are protected and these businesses pay tax. Failure to do so would only encourage unlicensed businesses and illegal operators to mushroom in our country.
Already, Airbnb has launched Trips, allowing tourists to book local offerings or happenings. When flights and other services are added, licensed travel agencies and tour operators would be displaced.
If government regulators take kindly to such market disruption, they too would eventually be usurped by online giants such as Airbnb and Uber operating in cyberspace, paying no local taxes or respecting local laws.
Source : Y S Chan@The Heat Malaysia Online