ITV Tonight: The true cost of Airbnb

Last night (20 February) we saw the airing of the Tonight programme on ITV questioning the true cost of Airbnb.  With the recent rise in the sharing economy and short term rentals, plus the industry set to rise even further, it’s clear that there are huge advantages to be had by the hosts as well as the consumers.  What’s not so clear though is the impact on local communities, how the industry is ‘regulated’ and how the platforms protect both consumers and hosts.

We have been working in this sector of the industry for a few years now, have secured a partnership with UK STAA and written a white paper on the Safety Standards in the Sharing Economy.  It is clear from the research that we have undertaken that the consumer assumes that all properties that are listed on platforms must be safety checked; this isn’t always the case.  In fact 89% of respondents to our 2019 survey think that smoke alarms should be mandatory.  We know that there are over 45,000 properties listed on Airbnb who admit to not having a smoke alarm.  How many more have ticked the box to say that they have an alarm when in fact they do not?

Another issue that comes as part of this is, as and when there is an accident, not only will the consumer be affected but so will the host.  They will be unlikely to have the right insurance in place, along with whether their mortgage is valid for the property to be used on a short term let basis and then whether the consumer decides to sue for damages.  All in all, a very hefty legal bill could ensue.

The Tonight programme gave a balanced and reasoned argument on how it has helped connect people, with Elene opening up her home to visitors after losing her husband three years earlier.  On the flip side also talking to people like Veronica who is sandwiched between two houses which are regularly let out as party houses.

The Scottish Government recently announced new measures to provide local authorities with the ability to introduce a licensing scheme for short-term rentals where they decide that this is in the interests of local communities.  We are proud to be a solution for that, working with the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC) as their preferred accreditation partner.

We know that the local authorities are up against it in terms of resources and enforcement with Katrina Lamont, Planning Enforcement Officer at Camden Council, saying

“In 2019 we estimate that just over 7000 properties were short term let in ... Camden, and of that we estimate 48% exceeded the 90-night allowance, which is around 3,400 properties.”

Deborah Heather, Director of Quality in Tourism says “The programme failed to address the fact that demand has increased supply. The bigger issue is around operating responsibly, but not just for communities, for consumers who need to be protected from operators with inadequate fire safety or carbon monixide detectors.

“Operators may also be unaware they need suitable insurance, or that mortgages or leases could be made null and void from short-term rentals. Innovation is not wrong necessarily, we just need adequate corresponding rules and regulation that are enforceable and reasonable,” she added.

The Quality in Tourism Safe, Clean & LegalTM accreditation provides an independent assessment of a property.  Hosts can then be assisted with any regulatory changes, receive expert advice & guidance and ultimately guest safety can be assured.

Watch the Tonight programme on catch up (Only available until 20 March 2020)

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