Airbnb lets ‘may be unsafe’ due to lack of regulation

Airbnb lets ‘may be unsafe’ due to lack of regulation

A REPORT from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism, Leisure and the Hospitality Industry found that the lack of checks on such properties means they may pose fire safety risks.

The Guardian reported that the ‘boom’ in the short term rentals through services such as Airbnb is seeing ‘growing numbers of professional holiday letting firms […] hiding from regulation’, and in turn ‘putting holidaymakers at risk’. The ‘unscrupulous businesses posing as private owners’ are taking advantage of the fact that both hotels and bed and breakfasts are ‘subject to fire regulations and other checks’, but homeowners ‘do not have to prove’ property safety before letting them online.

The group’s report is set to provide evidence that a ‘large number of businesses’ are using such platforms, with accountancy firm Moore Stephens revealing last week that there are 64,000 Airbnb properties in London compared to 197,970 hotels rooms, with ‘similar proportions’ in Brighton and Bristol. Despite this, local authorities and fire services are ‘unaware of the location of many of these properties’, which could be ‘problematic’ in the event of a major fire.

Group chairman Gordon Marsden stated that ‘there is an image that this is a lot of happy, jolly people with a spare room trying to make some pin money. That’s true, but it’s also true that there seems to be systematic attempts to do block-booking in blocks of flats. That’s problematic’. He also noted that the group had received evidence that a ‘large number’ of owners had multiple listings across different platforms.

He commented: ‘They have their hands on a number of different properties and many of those are often in large tower blocks. That suggests that sharing-economy platforms are increasingly being used to develop tourism accommodation businesses rather than simply renting a room on an ad hoc basis. Sadly, issues like the Grenfell inquiry have shone a strong light on what the potential perils in large blocks might be, in terms of safety and security, and particularly not knowing who’s in there.

‘Outside London, before 2000, this wasn’t a big issue but now we’ve got cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh that are attracting substantial numbers of domestic and international visitors who want to take advantage of the sharing platform. In many of those places, other than top-ranking hotels, they are probably filling an unmet need.’

He reflected on the government’s response, in that it has ‘not looked seriously at the issue, leaving local authorities to negotiate with holiday rental sites’, and added: ‘There has not been a substantive, independent or government-commissioned response to this, just a series of ad hoc comments. We’re right to look at the economic possibilities but that’s not a substitute in terms of legislation or government’s responsibility to take a dispassionate look at the pros and cons.’

Earlier this year, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the tourism industry warned about the risks from the growth of home sharing rental properties nationwide. Later in 2018, Airbnb property owner Jean Hendy was found guilty of breaching fire regulations at a property she was advertising on the service.