This is the first post in my Airbnb series.
We are now all part of a new ‘sharing economy’. Which comes with new ways to earn money via online services – such as Uber, Taskrabbit and of course, Airbnb.
I saw an interesting TED talk recently from Rachel Botsman on how, in the future, your ‘reputational capital’ is going to be as important as money in the bank – as it will affect your ability to earn via these networks.
Which is very true. These sites have also revolutionised many people’s lives and their ability to earn a living and (in some cases) get out of poverty.
So in many respects, they are a Good Thing. However, they can also be a very Bad Thing. It depends on how they are used.
In this series of articles, I am going to be looking in particular at Airbnb. How does renting via Airbnb compare with traditional renting, for example through a letting agent?
Airbnb – Easy Peasy Letting?
First – it is very easy to put your property up on the Airbnb website. You fill in a few pages on the site, load up descriptions and photographs and Bingo! The world is your oyster.
The ease of doing this is deceptive though. It is deceptive in that many people totally fail to realise that Airbnb is just another way of advertising your property. It makes it easier to find customers than putting a postcard in a sweet shop window and less expensive than using a letting agent.
However, it’s not a ‘magic button’ which releases you from all the consumer based regulations which apply to renting property in the UK.
Local Laws Apply
Many people fail to realise that the ‘terms and conditions’ which they so blithely click through when they sign up, include under 14, user conduct, a requirement that they must not:
violate any local, state, provincial, national, or other law or regulation, or any order of a court, including, without limitation, zoning restrictions and Tax regulations;
Airbnb is an international service, and although some help is available online it does not provide detailed guidance on the legal rules and regulations which apply in the various countries where it operates. It is up to you, the host, to do that, and to make sure you are operating within the law.
But how many people will do that? How many Airbnb hosts know anything about the ‘local rules’ which apply? Even those listed on Airbnb itself?
Ignorance of the law is no excuse
It is true that most people seeking to build up their ‘reputational capital’ will probably do anyway the things which regulations require. The whole point of regulation for rented property is to ensure the safety of tenants and other occupiers and enforce good practice.
Airbnb hosts in for the long haul will be keen to get good feedback from visitors which will encourage more bookings.
However the fact that you are a nice person doing your best is no defence to a prosecution for failing to comply with the HMO Management or Licensing regulations (yes, they CAN apply to you!). Or for renting a property which is a fire hazard or where the gas installations are unsafe.
You also ought to be aware that there are a lot of ‘horror stories’ associated with Airbnb lettings – and indeed there is a whole website devoted to this. Airbnb lettings can also impact on neighbours as described in this Guardian article.
This Airbnb series
In this series aimed mainly at Airbnb hosts, I am going to be looking at the things you need to know about your legal rights and obligations. I will also be giving some guidance on where to find further information so you can comply with the law.
Looking first at the question of whether you have the right to rent out your property in the first place.
Note – If you are an Airbnb host looking to learn more about your legal rights and obligations – click here.