Authorities in Quebec, Canada, are conducting undercover stings against people who rent out their homes to short-stay travellers on Airbnb, according to the Globe and Mail.
The move comes days after a New York court ruled that Airbnb was “illegal” in the state because it violated rules that prevent tenants from turning their apartments into hotel rooms.
It looks like the hotel industry is slowly waking up to threat Airbnb presents: 10 million people have paid cheap prices to stay in homes on Airbnb, and that’s 10 million unbooked hotel rooms.
Previously, it was thought that Airbnb was the equivalent of couch-surfing: Only the cheapest of travellers who would never book a hotel room anyway would use it. As this hotel industry blogger points out, that thinking is wrong.
But Airbnb has thousands of high-end properties, often with better amenities than cookie-cutter hotel chains provide. A friend of mine who travels frequently for business no longer books hotels; he’s gone Airbnb-exclusive because he got bored of ending up in chain brand motels near airports.
So expect more actions like this, prompted by lobbyists from the tourism and hospitality industry, per the Globe and Mail:
A spokeswoman for Tourisme Quebec says the province is investigating 2,000 people for renting out their homes for short-term stays without a permit.
Government agents are even making fake reservation requests to bust repeat offenders, Suzanne Asselin told the Montreal radio station 98.5 FM in an interview.
Residents aren’t allowed to advertise online or rent out their apartment on a regular basis, for fewer than 31 days, without registering and paying a $250 fee.
“The law and regulations on tourist establishments is clear on the subject,” Asselin told the radio station.
The paper notes that, “Business groups like Montreal’s Bed and Breakfast Association have been pushing for the government to crackdown on home rentals for years. Patryck Thenevard, who heads the association and runs Atmosphere, a bed and breakfast not far from Montreal’s downtown, said the hospitality industry is suffering.”
And there was a scare that Amsterdam was considering an Airbnb ban (the company said the report was false).
In many countries, local laws are already in place to ban Airbnb. Quartz collected this list:
- Check out this standard lease agreement from Michigan: “Subleasing, Sharing, Assignment and Guest at Premises: No subleasing, sharing of Premises, or assignment of agreement is permitted…”
- Here’s another from Ontario: “The Tenant shall not assign or sublet the premises without the prior written consent of the Landlord.”
- Here’s New Zealand: “If not expressly prohibited by the landlord, the tenant may sublet or assign the premises with the landlord’s prior written consent…”
There are two reasons why hoteliers want Airbnb curbed. The first, obviously, is money. As Barc/inno — a site on innovation in Barcelona — points out:
A 2012 report by La Caixa found that over two-thirds of the estimated 1.1 billion overnight stays in Spain were from unregistered accommodations. In other words, the black market for vacation rentals is costing Spain millions in tax revenue.
The second, not-so-obvious reason is health and safety. Hotels must meet requirements that ensure the safety of their guests. Not so, Airbnb hosts:
My home doesn’t have fire sprinklers or, I think, even a working smoke detector. I have no idea where the key to the front door is, and, if you looked not terribly close, you would find mouse shit in certain places you really don’t want to find mouse shit. … Needless to say, said home does not feature an evacuation plan.
So it’s no surprise that Airbnb has hired a head of global public policy, David Hantman, whose job it is to convince governments that hosts who have paying guests should not be regulated the way the Marriott is. He has hinted that the company will need a massive lobbying effort in every country where it operates to make sure it isn’t put out of business:
We are increasingly engaging with governments around the world to address the patchwork of laws governing the activity of our community. In some cities, short term rentals are always OK. In others, they are not. But in many cities, laws are confusing and unclear; sometimes, even to the governments that created them.
Whether Airbnb has enough money and lawyers to actually win a battle against the entire global hospitality industry is an open question.
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