Penang STRA guidelines may harm Malaysians, says Airbnb

These guidelines, may discourage locals to become short-term rental hosts in the long run 


AIRBNB is urging for the Penang government to reconsider its proposed guidelines on short-term rental accommodation (STRA) which it said would harm many Malaysians. 

These guidelines, which limit the duration of guest stays to only a maximum of three days, may strongly discourage Malaysians to become short-term rental hosts in the long run. 

On the other hand, hosts can only rent out their homes for a maximum of 180 days while STRA activities are not allowed in strata buildings with residential titles. 

Even unit owners need approval from the developers to carry out commercial activities for this purpose, while hosts who own properties in strata buildings with commercial titles are required to get approval from the Commissioner of Buildings and the Joint Management Body (JMB) of the building. 

In response to this, Airbnb shared detailed feedback and policy recommendations with Penang’s executive committee which also requests STRA by default in all strata buildings with commercial titles. 

Airbnb also hoped that residents should be able to continue using the existing Strata Management Act 2013 (SMA 2013). 

It also seeks for residents to be allowed to collectively decide with a 75% vote via their JMB or management corporation if any conditions or restrictions around STRA should be implemented. 

The short-term rental platform also warned that these regulations would harm Penang’s domestic and international tourism recovery. 

Goh says that hosting has helped many people earn a side income

According to Airbnb public policy head for South-East Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan Mich Goh, hosting has helped so many people earn a side income. 

“We believe that short-term rental should be regulated fairly and progressively to enable every- day Malaysians to share their homes without excessive barriers, especially as they navigate the rising costs of living. 

“We strongly urge the Penang government to reconsider its current proposed guidelines and adopt a balanced and simple approach towards regulating STRA in the state,” she said during the media briefing. 

Airbnb has spoken to different parties from hosts, guests and industry associations regarding this issue as they do not believe a blanket ban is a solution for nuisances created from short-term home rentals. 

“We make sure that we do not condone any kind of noises. If they do, we will speak to the host and try to understand what is happening so it does not happen again,” Goh assured. 

Airbnb also hoped to meet up with the federal government to suggest a baseline. 

“We want to (have a meeting with the government) for sure, because we know that now is a very exciting time because the borders have started reopening. 

“China is a big outbound travel driver for the Asia-Pacific region so I think travel intent is very high and the prospects for this industry are very good,” she added. 

A survey conducted by YouGov showed that 43% of Malaysian homeowners are thinking of becoming Airbnb hosts. 

After he lost his job due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Penangite and full-time Airbnb host Naseem Ali Shaik Othman turned to hosting which allowed him to pay for his expenses. 

Therefore, he will ensure that he is responsible even if it means equipping his guests with all emergency safety protocols including contact information and emergency guidelines. 

“To ensure the comfort and security of my neighbours, I always brief my guests of all house and building rules. 

“I also make it a point to inform building management that my house is used for short-term rental and is adhering to all the rules and regulations, register my business as a company, and declare my income,” he said. 

On the other hand, Selangor-based frequent traveller Nigel Anthony Fernendez said he preferred to use Airbnb when travelling with his family to feel more like home. 

“As a homeowner myself, I always remind my family to respect the homes we holiday in and be mindful of neighbours. 

“It is frustrating that the guidelines intend to penalise guests by limiting one’s stay to only three days a week, when we want to stay for longer,” he said. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition