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BHA boss slams 'dangerous' Airbnb

By Sophie Witts , 13-Jan-2016
Last updated on 13-Jan-2016 at 13:59 GMT2016-01-13T13:59:25Z

BHA boss slams 'dangerous' Airbnb

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), has slammed Airbnb for allowing its users to run potentially dangerous ‘pseudo hotels’ exempt from fire, food and health regulations.

Speaking to the Business Innovation and Skills Committee Ibrahim described home-exchange websites as being ‘industrial in scale’ and made up of ‘professional landlords, operating outside UK regulations and endangering the safety of the public’.

She argued that Airbnb was causing ‘mass disruption’ to the hotel sector, putting pressure on London housing stock and driving up rents.

During the hearing Ibrahim stated that:

  • Forty per cent of all home-exchange website listings are ‘professional landlords’ running unregulated ‘pseudo hotels’
  • The top 1000 home-exchange hosts are netting £150m of accommodation revenue annually
  • Half of all home-exchange listings are entire properties rather than rooms in host’s own homes
  • London is worst affected with 40 per cent of all listings originating from multiple property owners renting accommodation on a short-term basis year-round

Airbnb hits back

In November Airbnb promised to clamp down on its users running ‘illegal hotels’ and pay its ‘fair share’ of hotel and tourism tax.

But speaking at the hearing Patrick Robinson, Airbnb’s head of public policy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, denied the platform was unsafe.

“I think what Airbnb is doing is providing more choice to consumers in what is already quite a busy space for tourism accommodation,” he said.

“These are people’s homes, they are subject to different levels of regulation from dedicated tourism accommodation. The 2005 fire safety order makes it very clear that this is a risk-based approach. If a property is safe enough for me and my family to live in it should be safe enough for a family to come and live in for two weeks during the year.”

Taking action

At the hearing the BHA put forward three key proposals to regulate 'sharing economy' sites.

  • Home exchange websites should share with government bodies (London Authorities & Councils, HMRC) named host level data to demonstrate clearly:
    • Who is letting over 90 nights in London?
    • How many people are letting out a secondary residence?
    • How much tax is due on the income?
    • How staff are employed and paid to service multi-rentals?
  • Home exchange websites should directly restrict landlords from letting out for more than 90 days per year through their platform.
  • Home sharing websites should require much stricter checks on safety and security, something other sharing economy platforms, such as Uber, have already implemented. 

STR Global estimates that just over 25,000 London units are listed on Airbnb - 52 per cent of which are entire homes.