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New report calls for greater regulations for the ‘sharing economy’ and online platforms such as AirBnB

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sharing economyThe UK’s tourism sector has seen many changes over recent years, but perhaps none more significant than the emergence of the sharing economy.

Online platforms such as AirBnB, whilst originally positioned as helping homeowners make additional income by renting out a spare room in their home have now been used by an all-together different marketplace. Of the 64,000 properties listed on AirBnB in London, 50% of owners aren’t present at the home and 40% of those making listings are doing so for more than one property.

The suggestion is therefore that these are not homeowners and are instead tourism accommodation businesses. The issue with this? It is perceived by many that there is currently no level playing field when it comes to the regulations faced and taxation paid by those holiday letting via the sharing economy when compared to traditional holiday homeowners. In reality the reglations and tax regime applying to those offering furnished holiday accommodation is the same whichever route owners choose to market their holiday letting properties.

The report highlights concerns that “Rather, the problems derive from two main factors. First, sharing economy companies are very poor at providing information to potential hosts regarding their statutory responsibilities regarding the health and safety of their guests. Leading sharing economy platforms do not check if the hosts are compliant with regulations such as gas and fire safety before allowing them to post a property on their site. Of particular concern is that sharing economy companies place all responsibility for customer safety with the host.”

For example, the Airbnb terms and conditions state:
“Airbnb has no control over and does not guarantee the existence, quality, safety suitability or legality of any listing”

The report from the ‘All Party Parliamentary Group for Tourism’ has highlighted ‘the need to protect customer safety, maintain a level regulatory playing field across the tourism industry, take into account the needs of local communities, and ensure that all operators of tourism accommodation are paying the appropriate level of tax’. The report also highlights; “The need for comprehensive public liability insurance is becoming more acute as visitors, and the public as a whole, become more claims conscious.”

We recommend that anyone involved in the holiday letting industry reads the full report which can be downloaded as a PDF here – Inquiry into The Sharing Economy

The report recommends that the Culture Secretary launches a consultation on using his powers under the Development of Tourism Act 1969 to establish a low-cost statutory registration scheme for tourism businesses which would be devolved to local councils to enforce and administer.

This statement is certainly one that brings with it some encouragement, however it does cover a number of complex areas; from business rates to taxation and it will take time to achieve.  So what can you do to communicate the quality of your own holiday letting accommodation to potential guests?

Work with your great local holiday letting agencies

As a business we’re lucky to meet many holiday letting agencies across the country on a regular basis. They have years of experience in driving guests to your area so make the most of their knowledge and work with them in order to boost your occupancy rates. Holiday Home Letting Agents will also provide you with guidance on the laws and regulations applicable to you as a holiday homeowner.

Have your quality independently accessed and verified

We’ve already highlighted that there is a perception of lack of regulations when it comes to the sharing economy. Communicate just how far you go to ensure that every guest has a safe and enjoyable time at your holiday home. No matter if it’s entering local and regional awards or signing up to the AA or VisitEngland standards, guests often trust external verifications of your quality. So if you are five star, make sure that everyone that visits the website or your letting agent’s know that you are!

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. For more information on how a specialist insurer can help and support your holiday home business, please give us a call on 01237 429444.

 

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