Saturday, April 18, 2009

Condo units turned hotels

Rental of such rooms may have adverse effect on other residents: URA

SOME entrepreneurial owners of condominium units are renting out and marketing their properties as hotel rooms, going against regulations set by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The Straits Times knows of at least four condominium developments with units being rented out on a daily basis.

Marketed as 'condotels', 'holiday apartments' or 'hotel-style apartment room accommodation', the rooms are advertised freely on hostel directories online and personal websites.

One website, claiming 'award-winning service', even indicated check-in and check-out times, a $70 key deposit and free wireless Internet.

Advertised as the Soho 188 Condotel, it is actually known as the Soho 188 condominium development in Race Course Road, near Little India.

Other accommodation can be found at Parkview Condotel, officially known as Parkview apartments in Bukit Batok; Braddell Road's Braddell Regalia and Serangoon's Avon Park.

These rooms are being rented out at between $40 and $150 a day and are popular with students, people here for medical treatment and vegetarian business travellers from Bangladesh who want a kitchen to cook their own food.

These lodgers typically rent for a few days, although it can go up to a month.

'For properties approved for residential use, they are intended for long-term residential stay,' said a URA spokesman, adding that the use of such properties for transient accommodation is similar to how hotels operate. 'The leasing of such properties on a daily, weekly or monthly basis is not permitted.'

He added that the URA needs to assess the appropriateness of such accommodation and if it has an adverse impact on neighbouring residents.

Condominium managers agree that this arrangement may spell trouble. 'The concept of a condominium is for home living, not short-term living,' said Avon Park's manager Haroon Aisree, who will be discussing the matter with the property's management.

His worry: Tenants may be irresponsible and not take care of facilities because they have no ownership.

'We definitely have to take a stand and protect the interest of residents,' he said, adding that he did not know such a business was going on.

Owners of these units, like Mr Roger Pay, said they did not know they were doing anything wrong.
The owner of four units at Avon Park started renting out his 20 rooms half a year ago when he 'received calls from people saying they wanted daily or weekly stay'.

The 41-year-old, who told The Straits Times that all but two rooms are currently occupied, charges about $50 to $90 per room each day and has seen 'increased popularity over time'.
It is the same story for a 75-year-old owner who did not want to be named.

He has been renting out units to lodgers who fork out $70 daily. 'I didn't know that it was wrong,' he said. 'If the authorities give me a letter to tell me to stop doing this in black and white, then I will stop.'

Mr Surendra Kumar Sinha, who is in Singapore for colon cancer treatment, rents a room at a condo unit at Soho 188.

He and his wife, both from Bangladesh, pay $130 a night. Depending on how intensive treatment is, his stay could last from two weeks to a month.

'It's rather expensive for us, but it is still cheaper than hotels and other studio apartments,' said the 59-year-old, who arrived in Singapore earlier this month.

For Miss Crystal Deleon, who is on a 13-day trip to visit her Singaporean boyfriend, her condotel room brings many benefits.

'It's cheaper than a hotel and near my boyfriend's house, so he can send me back after work,' said the Philippine national, who pays about $70 daily for a room at Braddell Regalia.

The URA is currently investigating the matter.

Source: Straits Times, 18 April 2009

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