Airbnb is increasingly popular with budget-conscious travellers seeking out an authentic experience when travelling to foreign destinations. The short-term rental service that allows homeowners and tenants to rent out their properties is, however, not without its challenges.
Despite the numerous benefits, there are concerns for both hosts and guests. For hosts, they have to contend with the risk that their property might be stolen or damaged. For guests, there is the risk that the often lack of clear regulation makes it easier for guests to be victims of scams. Guests might also inadvertently end up staying in seedier areas that are far off the regular tourist circuit for good reason, unwittingly putting themselves in danger.
SEE: Would you stay in this extremely remote Airbnb deep in the woods?
A recent example of an Airbnb rental gone wrong involves the untimely death of a Florida woman. This resulted in the removal of a listing from its platform.
According to the Associated Press (AP) reports, Airbnb says "it has removed the vacation rental listing in Costa Rica where a woman was staying when she was slain. Carla Stefaniak of Florida spent the night at the Villa le Mas, near San Jose, on Nov. 27. Her family reported her missing when she didn't return home. Her body was found Monday. A resort security guard has been arrested in connection with her death.”
The AP article continued to state that “a posting on the "Finding Carla" Facebook page says Costa Rican authorities allowed the family to view her body, which was found Monday half-buried and covered in plastic near the Airbnb villa that Carla Stefaniak of Miami Beach had rented last month.”
To deal with many of these issues, governments and cities are increasingly looking to regulation to solve the issues compounded by the share-economy dynamic. One fear is that an influx of travellers will transform quiet residential areas into virtual hotel districts with all the accompanying noise, mess and trouble that comes with that.
Most prominent in the mind of regulators is the lack of oversight and accountability as well as tax collection and adherence to zoning by-laws. The lack of regulation is put forth by opponents of Airbnb as being unfair and unsafe because they don’t have to comply with the regulation that would be required for hotels and formal temporary accommodation outlets.
In South Africa, with around 17 000 Airbnb listings, more than half of the country’s listings are in Cape Town and this has generated some controversy. In a city that is already touted as being expensive and without adequate and sufficient housing, short-term Airbnb rentals are seen as a factor in the increase in property prices.
SEE: How Airbnb is affecting local economies in South Africa
While some countries have decided to not allow the service operating within its borders (Crimea, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Sudan), other countries and cities have taken to aggressive regulation.
Here are some of those places:
Back in 2016, one of the more liberal European countries (in more ways than one), signed an accord with Airbnb that banned renting out properties beyond a maximum of 60 days a year.
Angry residents protested fiercely against the influx of noisy tourists partying all night. The city authorities responded by ceasing to extend new licenses to single apartments in the historic city centre. Currently, Barcelona requires that all short-term rental hosts register with the city and display their permit number prominently online.
PICS: Fed-up Spanish cities are bursting Airbnb's bubble
Rental prices in the German capital have soared in recent years and officials responded by passing some of the most stringent regulations to reign in Airbnb. The rental of a maximum of one room in one's own dwelling is allowed and no more with the threat of a 100 000 euros (about R1.59m at EUR1/R15,90) fine as a deterrent.
On 15 June, Japan implemented some of the most stringent rules governing short term rentals. Stays are limited to 180 days a year and local governments are allowed to impose additional restrictions. Kyoto, a major tourist centre, has made full use of the law and only permits rentals in residential areas between January and March - the low season for tourists.
SEE: Airbnb suspends majority of its Japan listings ahead of new rental law
New York City, USA
Since October of 2016, New York City has completely banned short-term rentals on home-sharing sites. Essentially, renting out apartments for stays of less than 30 days is banned.
Airbnb's biggest market has had to fight for its own residents as they stave off an influx of tourists displacing Parisians from Paris. Last year the city capped the maximum number of days permitted for short-term rentals to 120 annually.
SEE: Paris to sue Airbnb over undeclared listings
San Francisco, USA
The home of Airbnb requires hosts to register for a Short-Term Residential Rental Certificate and a Business Registration Certificate from the city. Additionally, you can rent out the property for only 90 days a year.
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