Illegal lodging in Macau SAR and the search for clarity
João Nuno Riquito and Daniel de Senna Fernandes of Riquito Advogados discuss amendments to the law that reinforces the definition of illegal lodging and the associated penalties
Law 3/2010 entered into force on July 30 2010 in the Macau Special Administrative Region as an attempt to rein in the ‘chaotic phenomenon’ of illegal lodging in residential dwellings by creating a specific legal framework pursuant to which anyone who illegally provided lodging to the general public could be fined up to MOP800,000 (approximately $99,600).
Some concerns were soon raised, particularly with regard to the difficulty in both identifying the operators of illegal guesthouses and in collecting fines from offenders. Thus, following a proposal by the Macau SAR government in late 2021, the Legislative Assembly passed an amendment aimed at correcting the issues found in that law’s enforcement over the course of the past decade through the approval of Law 3/2022, where two main concerns are addressed: the definition of illegal lodging and the penalties imposed on offenders.
According to the newly amended law, ‘illegal lodging’ is defined as the act by which a natural or legal person provides lodging in dwellings not licensed to operate as hotels. An exception is made for religious associations or any other non-profit organisations, including institutions of higher education, providing accommodation due to religious, charitable, sports, cultural or academic activities, as well as for the cases where the provider and the person seeking accommodation share a familial, professional or academic relationship or any other personal ties preceding the tenancy. In both exceptions, however, lodging must be provided free of charge.
The amended law also broadens the scope of entities subject to special duties of cooperation at the request of the Macau Government Tourism Office, to include the Land Registry Office, the Housing Bureau and the Macau Post and Telecommunications Bureau, as well as real estate agents or any accommodation booking operators that may be in charge of dealing with matters concerning the dwelling.
In addition to the existing administrative offenses, which include the illegal provision of lodging services and the gathering of lodgers, the amended version now determines that real estate agents endorsing the execution of illegal lodging by agreements a third party may be imposed a fine up to MOP100,000.
All in all, this amendment ultimately clarifies and reinforces the definition of illegal lodging and the penalties associated therewith, further reiterating the government’s stance on this issue.
Considering the relevance of tourism for the local economy, this matter is of particular importance to the Macau Special Administrative Region.
In an accompanying statement, the legislators made clear that the current 44,217 hotel rooms available in Macau SAR are sufficient to cater to the needs of the local population and of inbound tourists, ostensibly closing the door shut to private lodging services such as those provided by companies such as ‘Airbnb’ – an online broker based in San Francisco that connects hosts looking to rent their properties with people who are seeking accommodation – which have long been deemed not to be an attractive option in the diversification of the local hospitality industry.
João Nuno Riquito
Managing partner, Riquito Advogados
Daniel de Senna Fernandes
In-house consultant, Riquito Advogados