S’pore estate agent fined S$1.16m for subletting properties on Airbnb and HomeAway

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Left to right: Claremont, Residences @ 338A and The Abode at Devonshire condominiums (PHOTOS: Google Street View)

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean real estate agent who provided unauthorized short-term accommodation on Airbnb and HomeAway was fined S$1.158 million by the Singapore District Court on Monday (May 30).

Simon Chan Chai Wan’s fine is the highest amount ever imposed on an individual in Singapore for offenses related to unauthorized short-term stays, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said in a press release.

The 57-year-old had made arrangements in private residential properties with the help of his girlfriend and fellow real estate agent Zhao Jing. Zhao, a 43-year-old Singaporean, was fined S$84,000 for her role, which included running the lists.

Chan received a total income of S$1,254,907.78 from the 14 premises he rented for short-term accommodation between June 30, 2017 and July 2018. Chan paid Zhao approximately S$52,000 in total for his help, which is equivalent to a monthly salary of S$4,000. .

Under URA regulations, all private residential properties must be leased for a minimum of three consecutive months.

Chan pleaded guilty to nine counts under the Planning Act, while Zhao pleaded guilty to four counts under the same law. Respectively, each had five and 10 counts considered for their sentencing.

Chan had been a director or ex-director of HTM Solutions, HTM Management and SNS Infotech at the time. Zhao had also been involved as a director of HTM Solutions and HTM Managements.

Using the three companies and Zhao, Chan rented 14 private residences and listed them on various short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway.

The premises Chan rented were in condominiums or apartments in prime areas of Tanjong Pagar, River Valley, Orchard and Keppel Bay.

Two residential units were at International Plaza, three units at Robinson Suites, five units at Claremont condominium, one unit at Residences @ 338A condominium, one unit at The Abode condominium in Devonshire, one unit at Centrepoint Apartments and one unit at Caribbean in Keppel Bay condominium.

To rent the properties, Chan and Zhao entered into rental agreements with the owners of these units through his companies. The couple did not reveal that they were subletting the units for short-term accommodation, nor did they ask permission to do so.

Chan lied to some of the landlords by claiming that Zhao and her child, or Zhao and her husband would reside in the rented units.

In addition to helping Chan rent two units, Zhao helped set up and manage accounts on Airbnb. She also posted ads on the platform. Chan took charge of the daily running of the units.

Between December 2017 and May 2018, CISCO agents inspected several units sublet by Chan and found strangers and their families staying there.

For using the premises to provide short-term accommodation of less than three months, a first-time offender can be fined S$200,000.

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