A 57-year-old ex-property agent has been fined a record $1,158,000 on 30 May for illegally renting out units in Singapore.
And to add to that number, his wife (and accomplice) was fined $84,000 for aiding him in committing these offences.
If the couple is unable to pay the fine, the man would have to be imprisoned for 95 weeks, while the wife would serve jail time of 12 weeks.
Here’s what happened.
Tenancy Agreement with Owners, Sublet Units on Online Platforms
Simon Chan Chai Wai and his wife, Zhao Jing, were licenced real estate agents at the time of the offences. The couple were directors of HTM Solutions and HTM Management, while Chan was the director of SNS Infotech Global.
Chan would sign tenancy agreements with the units’ owners using the companies’ names. For two of the units, Chan convinced Zhao to be the tenant.
The couple would then rent the units out for short-term accommodations on various platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway.
These units include those in International Plaza, Robinson Suites, Claremont, Centrepoint Apartments, The Abode at Devonshire, and Caribbean at Keppel Bay.
He was bringing in major coin doing this business, as from June 2017 to July 2018, Chan’s revenue was $1,254,907.78.
He paid Zhao $4,000 per month for helping him, so she would have received $52,000 in that period of time.
Wait, Why Is Renting Illegal?
You might know people who rented their apartments out, and are now wondering why this is illegal at all.
Well, it turns out that all private residential properties rented out for accommodation must be subjected to a minimum stay of three consecutive months.
This means that you’re not supposed to rent your property for only a few days or weeks for some short-term traveller. This is because the frequent turnover of guests changes the “residential character” of the property, and also causes inconveniences to the neighbours.
Additionally, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) also said that property owners should ensure that their property isn’t being used by tenants for unauthorised purposes.
Got Caught by Cisco Officers
In one case, Cisco officers were inspecting a unit in International Plaza on 26 April 2018, when they found out that an Australian family was living in it for two nights. The family rented the property from Chan on Airbnb for $795.
Zhao had used HTM Solutions to sign an agreement to lease the unit from its owner from March 2018 to 2019, at $4,200 a month. However, the agreement specified that only authorised occupants listed are allowed to live in the unit. The tenant is not authorised to rent the unit without the owner’s consent.
It turns out that Chan, acting as Zhao’s agent, told the owners that Zhao and her child will be occupying the unit. Of course, Zhao had no intention of doing so, and Chan proceeded to illegally rent the unit from March to July 2018.
The other cases all followed the same story, just at different locations and prices.
Action to be Taken on Property Owners Too
URA’s website states that property owners who fail to safeguard their properties against misuse will be held responsible.
Owners should regularly check on their properties, to ensure that they aren’t being illegally rented for short-term accommodation.
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