Airbnb: Only guidelines, no ban yet on STRAs in Penang

The Strata Act 2013 for buildings essentially has the final say about what types of by-laws they want to enact 


THERE had never been a ban on short-term rental accommodation (STRA) in Penang, it is merely guidelines from the state government, Airbnb clarified. 

Airbnb public policy head for South-East Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan Mich Goh said the Strata Act 2013 for buildings essentially has the final say about what types of by-laws to enact. 

“To finalise the decision making, it must obtain the approval of their respective management bodies with a 75% ‘yes’ vote from other owners at an AGM to pass the by-law,” she explained during a media briefing on June 21. 

Understanding the problems and implications, Goh urged the government to implement a three-strike law to regulate the industry. 

With such law in place, an individual’s registration as an Airbnb host would be revoked following repeated acts of noise and nuisance. 

She said complainants could contact the platform’s hotline and Airbnb personnel will try to ascertain whether there was a reservation on the platform at the time of the complaints. 

“If there was, we will call the host to ensure that they will act upon it immediately,” she said, adding that hosts were usually quick to respond to any complaints. 

Earlier this month, a few media outlet reported that Penang had effectively banned STRAs at residential units on the island, except for serviced apartments, small office and home offices, among others, which was not the case, Goh said. 

She further explained that it is especially detrimental to Malaysia if such restrictions or bans are to be implemented, given that the digital nomad and medical tourists are big now, as more workers will come to work and live in Malaysia for a long term. 

“STRA will encourage travellers to stay longer and most importantly, it will also allow everyday Malaysians and local businesses from food and beverage outlets to laundromats to benefit from the trickle-down effects of tourism,” she said. 

Goh also shared the importance of fair and balanced STRA regulations in Malaysia, noting that the federal government is developing national STRA guidelines that all states can look towards. 

“Having clear and progressive regulations that support STRA operators will ensure both local and international travellers continue to have access to a variety of unique, family-friendly stays at different price points,” she added. 

In line with its commitment of responsible hosting and guest behaviour, Airbnb is rolling out enhanced reservation screening technology to reduce the risk of disruptive incidents on the platform globally. 

According to them, the system will help identify potential higher-risk reservations by looking at specific risk factors and prevent these bookings from being made. 

This follows the party ban policy introduced by Airbnb last year, which includes a 16-person occupancy cap for every listing. 

“There has been a global 55% drop in party reports on the platform in two years since the company implement the anti-party measures in 2020,” Goh shared. 

She added that Airbnb will also be rolling out a Strata building toolkit for hosts in Malaysia to promote responsible hosting in strata buildings. 

Working closely with hosts in strata buildings, Airbnb said it will share proposed by-laws such as to help guide STRA-related activity in strata buildings, to have Airbnb’s industry-first Malaysia code of conduct for STRA and to have a neighbourhood support line in Bahasa Malaysia, flagging urgent concerns about nearby listings to Airbnb’s response team. 

Another proposed guideline was to allow compensation models for strata residence neighbours affected by misbehaving guests. 

“In the state of Victoria, Australia, financial compensation can be made directly to neighbours in strata buildings that are negatively impacted by short-term rentals, in addition to fines being imposed against errant STRA guests,” Goh said. 

She added that an exclusion register was also proposed, citing how it was implemented by the New South Wales government 

This comprises a list of hosts and guests who are excluded from participating in STRA due to non-compliance to the state’s code of conduct, which is legally binding, causing those under the exclusion register to no longer be involved in the STRA ecosystem. 

She said the suggestions were sent to many different government agencies, including Plan Malaysia and that engagements have been held since several years ago. 

“Regulations, however, must be done in a way that is balanced and effective, where it does not restrict Malaysia’s long-term tourism goals,” she said. 

Goh stressed that it was also possible for both sectors to coexist as she said the group has always been involved in federal-level discussions on what STRA guidelines will look like. 

“With that being said, the tourism pie is big enough and has reached a stage where guests are looking for different kinds of accommodations depending on the time of trips they are making,” she said. 

Goh also said the ongoing travel resurgence presents fresh opportunities for tourism growth across Malaysia. 

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