Malaysia’s Penang State Government has banned all unlicensed Airbnb and Booking.com homestays throughout the island with immediate effect, according to a 21 August report by The West Australian.
The report says that the ban is part of a crackdown on short-term holiday rentals. The decision was taken after residents complained about bad behaviour of tourists.
Penang is the first State in Malaysia and the first major tourist destination in Southeast Asia to announce such a measure to curb bad behaviour of tourists.
The ban on Airbnb and other similar short-term rental services was originally announced on 30 May.
According to a June report by Bloomberg, Penang Island Mayor Rajendran Antony had then said that the ban’s “full implementation and enforcement” would not be in effect until 1 March 2024.
Everything about the new regulations on short-term stay in Penang
What are the new regulations?
In a statement issued on 30 May, Mayor Rajendran said, “Housing premises, be it in the form of landed properties (housing estates) or strata (high rise) properties, are not allowed to operate as short-term rental accommodation.”
All private residential properties are covered in the ban. Six types of commercial properties are excluded. These are: serviced apartments, small office home offices (SoHo), small office flexible offices (SoFo), small office virtual offices (SoVo), office suites, and duplex offices.
According to the new regulations, short-term guests can be accommodated only in the commercial properties that are not part of the ban.
Under the new guidelines, commercial rentals will have to be registered with Penang Island City Council (MBPP). They will have to pay annual fees ranging between SGD 72 (USD 54) and SGD 145 (USD 107) along with a one-time security deposit ranging from SGD 292 (USD 215) to SGD 877 (USD 645), which will be collected by joint management bodies and management corporations.
All rentals will have to secure the approval of 75 per cent of other residents in the building to be able to host short-term guests.
According to the rules, guests can stay for a maximum duration of three days per booking in the approved rental. The usage of the rental unit has also been limited to 180 days per year.
A fine of SGD 58 (USD 43) has also been imposed for violation of the new regulations.
Ban originally announced in May
Penang is a state located in northwest Malaysia. It comprises mainland Seberang Perai and Penang Island. The capital city, George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located on the island.
According to Bloomberg, the ban announced in May was limited to Penang Island districts rather than the mainland Penang.
The West Australian report says that the ban “does not affect Seberang Perai” but “it’s expected soon.”
Airbnb’s statement on the ban
Post the announcement, Airbnb said that there is no ban on Penang Island.
According to Free Malaysia Today (FMT), Mich Goh, the Airbnb public policy head for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said the guidelines were only to regulate STRAs on the island and that they would restrict accommodation options for travellers and the duration of their stay.
“What essentially happened is that the Penang government announced the guidelines to regulate short-term rentals. These guidelines and suggestions are meant to advise buildings and local councils on how to regulate short-term rental activities,” Goh said, adding that it will still affect tourism in Penang.
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Penang is not the first to impose restrictions on Airbnb
Short-term rental services such as Airbnb are heavily regulated in various cities of Europe, the US and some other parts of the world.
According to a report by Forbes in January 2023, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam have in place strict policies on short-term rentals. Cities such as Berlin, Bologna, London and Prague were mulling ways to impose their own rules.
US cities of Miami and Santa Monica also have strict restrictions. According to the report, Los Angeles was trying to ban Airbnb rentals used as party houses and renting a property in New York is illegal if you don’t live in the property.
Countries such as Brazil, Japan and Turkey were also looking to impose new regulations on Airbnb and other similar platforms. Singapore has some of the strictest Airbnb policies in the world.
Policies are different in each city. Landlords must register each listing separately in Paris. Those in Barcelona must have a a Tourist Use House License.
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This story first appeared on Travel+Leisure Malaysia