I recently stayed in a cockroach-infested Airbnb in Penang, a state in northern Malaysia.
In May, the state banned short-term rentals, including ones listed on Airbnb.
"Housing areas are for residents. If you are holidaying, go to a hotel," a local government official said.
After a terrible experience at an Airbnb in Penang, a state in northern Malaysia, I vowed to never book on the homestay rental platform again. Now, Penang has called it quits with Airbnb too — and has banned short-term rentals altogether, according to a report by Free Malaysia Today, citing the Penang Island City Council.
In February, my friends and I booked an apartment in Penang that was listed on multiple platforms, including Airbnb and Booking.com. It cost just 1,010 Malaysian ringgit or $220 for two nights and looked stunning in the advertised photos online, with a gorgeous view of the sea.
But we never got to see it in person. An hour after we were scheduled to check in, the host relocated us to another rental in a different part of town. We ended up spending our weekend in an eerie apartment that's located right next to a hospital. The nail in the coffin was the cockroaches we spotted scurrying around the place. Thankfully, we got a refund.
Just four months later, on May 25, Penang banned short-term lets, including ones listed online on Airbnb, Agoda, and Booking.com — but in this case, cockroaches were not the pests. The state government said it's due to tourists causing too much trouble in residential areas, which has led to dozens of complaints from locals.
"Whether people like it or not, we will be firm on this. Housing areas are for residents. If you are holidaying, go to a hotel," Jagdeep Singh Deo, a member of Penang's State Executive Council, told Free Malaysia Today in April. Singh did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Now, short-term rentals are limited to serviced apartments and specific commercial spaces. Guests are allowed to rent a government-approved unit for a maximum of three days at a time and for only 180 days a year. And if you flout these rules, you can get fined 200 ringgit or $44 — a slap on the wrist for many holidayers, really.
Airbnb is pushing back against the ban, and argues on its website that these rules will "heavily restrict the ability of Malaysians to share their home in strata buildings, and reduce the variety of affordable accommodation options for domestic and international travelers." Airbnb did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
While many Airbnb hosts say that the ban is "extremely painful," some local residents are rejoicing.
"There have been times when at least 20 people have stayed, their cars blocking our driveway. They were rude, throwing balls over the fence, loud," Tatiana Breger, who lives in Penang, told The South China Morning Post, adding that she agrees with the government's ban.
While some tourists might lament the ban, I'm not one of them — I'm happy to return to booking hotels where I'm guaranteed to get the room I paid for.
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