Yangon landlords will face penalties if they rent rooms or apartments to foreigners holding a tourist visa, U Zaw Aye Maung, the military-appointed region minister for immigration, told The Myanmar Times.
By-laws written for Myanmar’s 1947 Immigration Act stipulate that foreign visitors on a tourist visa must stay in hotels, he said.
Only permanent residents and foreigners holding business visas are allowed to rent apartments or houses within wards – an administrative sub-division of cities – said U Zaw Aye Maung.
In the past these rules were rarely enforced, but a sharp rise in the number of foreign visitors to Yangon meant it was important that landlords and tourists follow the rules, he added.
“It is not a new law it was enacted a long time ago,” said U Zaw Aye Maung. “But the reason we are reminding people is that now more tourists are staying in houses and apartments. We can’t take responsibility for their security if they aren’t staying in a hotel.”
The number of tourists and expats arriving in Yangon for recreation and business has risen in recent years. Hotels projects have blossomed in response, and there are now so many hotels in key areas that the government has decided to place restrictions on new development.
But despite the surge in the number of hotel rooms, many individuals and groups entering the country on tourist visas opt to rent rooms or apartments from locals, which remain a cheaper option, said real estate consultant U Aung Min.
“Hardly any real estate agents or home owners are interested in what kind of visa foreigners looking to rent are holding,” he said. “They want to rent to foreigners because of the higher fees.”