SINGAPORE (Apr 16): On April 3, two former property agents were fined $60,000 each for short-term rentals they had posted on Airbnb. The two men had collected $19,000 from four listings at the d’Leedon condominium over five weeks last year. The action was taken after residents at d’Leedon lodged complaints. Local regulations prohibit rental agreements of less than three months for private properties and less than six months for HDB flats. The fines are likely to send a strong signal to the 1.4 million registered users of Airbnb.

The concept of taking in boarders to augment one’s income is hardly new. Airbnb takes its name from “bed and breakfast”, a term once used to describe an overnight lodging in a private home. Some sources date the term to the Georgian era, when it became fashionable for the English to take curative visits in spa towns. Demand for accommodation led locals to open their homes to these visitors. The B&B industry was further spurred when steam trains brought holiday travel to the seaside towns. And after World War II, Americans travelling to Europe created a hospitality boom.

While some B&B operators were landlords of multiple properties, many were widows or retirees hoping to make some additional income. Later, the B&B establishment acquired a reputation as an affordable accommodation option that offered sophisticated travellers a personal touch. However, the advent of the internet has facilitated the growth of such informal hospitality businesses to a level at which it is having a significant impact on communities — in good and bad ways.

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