KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14, 2015:

Private holiday rentals are causing a surge in prices of residential homes in Cameron Highlands, claims Cameron Highlands Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) branch chief Suresh Kumar. He said homebuyers from other places, especially from Ipoh, Penang and the Klang Valley, had been actively acquiring properties, notably over the past few years, to turn them into private holiday rental homes. “Cameron Highlands’ status as the premier cool climate holiday destination in the country, with easy access from four main roads into the area, is a magnet for tourists. “Significantly, houses are limited by a lack of land due to the mountainous landscape as well as competition from commercial farming, which is extensive in the area,” he told The Rakyat Post.He said this had resulted in locals struggling to buy or even rent homes as it was more profitable for owners to rent out on a daily basis to tourists. “Monthly rentals, which can reach RM2,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, are at a level that local people will never be able to afford. “Even the cheapest 1Malaysia People’s Housing Project (PR1MA) homes, at RM120,000 for an apartment, is out of the reach of many.”

Hoteliers are also feeling the pinch as a result of the surge in private holiday rentals, with an increasing number of tourists now choosing to rent accommodations privately. Wan Saleh Ismail, operator of budget hostel TJ Lodge in Tanah Rata, said private holiday rentals accounted for at least 30% of the market share. “These private holiday rentals are cheaper as the homeowners incur minimal operating expenses. “Private holiday rentals are also unlicensed and the homeowners do not have to pay taxes from profits. “They also do not have to conform to the same regulations imposed on hotels, including a minimum standard of quality, health and safety requirements.”

Wan Saleh said the local authorities should pass a new law that would restrict homeowners from renting out their homes.

However, he said, it was doubtful that this would happen as many civil servants were involved in the activity. An apartment owner in Brinchang, who wished to be known only as Zul, said private holiday rentals used to be lucrative, but the market had become too saturated. “Some homeowners are slashing prices from RM180 to RM80 a day for a three-bedroom apartment for fear that they cannot meet mortgage payments. “At RM80 a day, you can’t really make a profit unless you are doing the housekeeping and maintenance all by yourself.”

He said private holiday rentals should be allowed as they provided an alternative for holiday makers who could not afford hotel stays or were unwilling to compromise on comfort. “This is especially true for those with big families who might have to spend a lot on accommodation. “By saving in this area, they can free up a lot of cash for the rest of the trip.”

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