Airbnb is great until it’s not – beware changing rules

The rules are changing in several major cities. Don’t get caught out.

Airbnb – great until it’s not

I’m a bit of a scrooge when it comes to travel accommodation. Basically, I just want a comfortable clean bed and a shower – good pressure preferred but not essential. A washing machine would be a bonus. I aim to spend the day – every day – out and about, exploring, discovering, eating and drinking. So I’m an ardent Airbnb-er.

However, the rules of engagement in the Airbnb space are changing.

I recently spent two weeks in New York in an Airbnb apartment in the Lower East Side that I’d booked about six months earlier. It’s that competitive! We had no problems – except for a flooding toilet that caused panic stations for 20 minutes – but last month I read about a traveller who found himself locked out of his Airbnb unit in New York on day three because the host had breached the rules. The ‘host’ had been found out by the owner of the apartment who had obtained an emergency eviction order. “All my husband had on him was his laptop, passport and phone,” wrote his wife.

“The following afternoon he returned to the apartment and, fortunately, the janitor led him down to the unlit basement where, by torchlight, he found the rest of his belongings stuffed into garbage bags.

“There was little recourse from Airbnb as they said it was the responsibility of the host to check on legalities of subleasing, and no refund or even apology was issued.”

Scary. I hadn’t realised there were restrictions.

About two years ago, New York State passed a law prohibiting the advertising of short-term rentals. It’s estimated that more than 70 per cent of the Airbnb listings in New York City are illegal.

And the rules are changing in different cities and countries with some cities seriously cracking down on Airbnb rentals because of a shortage of accommodation for locals.

Last month, the New York City Council voted unanimously to significantly restrict Airbnb and other online home rental services. The aim is to prevent landlords and tenants illegally renting out apartments for a few days at a time to tourists.

If the bill becomes law, Airbnb would be required to provide the names and addresses of hosts to the city’s Office of Special Enforcement.

Already, similar restrictions are in effect in San Francisco, New Orleans, Barcelona, Vancouver, parts of London and Palma de Mallorca. Airbnb was banned in Berlin but was allowed again in May – with significant restrictions.

New York City is Airbnb’s largest domestic market, but under state law, it is illegal in most buildings for an apartment to be rented out for less than 30 days unless the permanent tenant is residing in the apartment at the same time.

The New York Times reports that the new disclosure requirements would make it much easier for the city to enforce the state law and could lead to many of the 50,000 units rented through Airbnb taken off the market. After similar rules came into effect in San Francisco, listings fell by half.

There are more than 2 million listings in 34,000 cities and 191 countries, says Airbnb, but that could all be about to change.

Airbnb can be a great budget way to travel. Just make sure you check the changing landscape before parting with your money.

Are you a fan of Airbnb? How would you rate your experiences? Do you have recommendations or warnings?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    6th Aug 2018
    You can always find one or two bad stories among the thousands of good ones. The same thing can happen with hotels. Airbnb is fantastic.
    6th Aug 2018
    Beat me to it Rod, I agree totally. Obviously you may need to be cautious in New York with their laws but overall AirBnb is fanastic. I've stayed in 40 different places around Oz and the US, all of them have been great with a couple rated good. Just check out the reviews/photos.
    And like you said Rod you can get poor motels/hotels, had some woeful places over the years.
    6th Aug 2018
    NSW has also introduced new laws around AirBnB especially in unit blocks.

    Other things that should be considered are insurance - it could well be invalid if you are renting out rooms or the whole place without telling the insurer; local councils also have regulations and you could be up for both fines and renovation fees to bring your premises up to code, Strata law may also prevent or restrict what an owner can do, tenants would be in breach of their lease agreement by effectively sub-letting through ABnB; all income must be declared and tax paid if warranted.......
    This is by no means a simple issue and is not about making a few dollars on the side. There are issues such as safety and security not only of the Airbnber but also other residents in apartment blocks, fire safety are just a couple.
    6th Aug 2018
    Yes Airbnb is risky. The only assurance you have is the comments left by travellers. I recently found a great place but read that the host had cancelled twice on short notice in the past couple of years.
    The other thing to look out for is comments which identify a troublesome host. A bit more difficult because some travellers have unrealistic expectations but it is possible to read between the lines.
    Third thing is (generally) don't book a room in a place where the host/owner lives. This is a 50/50 bet. Some are the salt of the earth and some are the most miserable people you don't want to come in contact with. They can ruin your holiday. If you need to then only do so if comments are off the scale nice as these folk are worth the risk.
    Airbnb? Short term letting? Personally both should be banned or at the very least heavily regulated. Residential zonings are FOR PEOPLE TO LIVE, not party central or people who come and go on a daily basis. This is what business has now created and political parties might want to take this to an election as short term letting in nearly all cases ruins family life for the neighbours.
    6th Aug 2018
    Its a difficult one MICK. The tourists like the cheaper accommodation. The home owners like the exponential increase in their rental acquisition with a very good chance the tax man is missing out on his cut.
    People are buying $2m holiday homes and getting a return of $20K p.a. Thats 10% on an investment and they get the property at the end of the day.
    That means a house that in all fairness should only cost $500K is now unaffordable for any local and is also unavailable to rent.
    It really does have to stop somewhere - but is it like cheap clothes from China. No one cares when it saves them money regardless of the consequences to the economy.
    6th Aug 2018
    I understand Rosret but the ZONING should be the ZONING. The fact that some folk pay a lot of money for a property should not allow them to use it other than according to the zoning.....which was put in place for a very specific reason. In terms of residential zoning they were put in place to provide families with a place to live and being turned into commercial premises should never be permitted. Sadly the business owned side of politics has done exactly that.
    6th Aug 2018
    Yes, I agree Mick. I have had friends with a beautiful view and seaside location move to another town because the neighbours went Airbnb and every weekend was a nightmare.
    6th Aug 2018
    Have lived the nightmare. Fully understand. I fixed it!
    6th Aug 2018
    Rosret, $20K pa on a $2 million dollar house is only a 1% return not a 10% one.
    6th Aug 2018
    So it is Bren should read $200K. They get $2000 a night.
    6th Aug 2018
    Yes, its time Australia started getting some regulations in Airbnbs. Its great for the tourist and the owner but not so good for the bread and butter economy of the town.
    6th Aug 2018
    Things have improved a lot but just like the alcohol lock-out laws Airbnb hosts keep wanting to go back to the bad old days.
    6th Aug 2018
    I do not subscribe to Airbnb or Uber or the like, I like what some persons refer to as "the nanny state' where there are enforceable regulations to cover areas such as public accommodation and transport, and appropriate insurance cover in case anything goes awry.
    22nd Sep 2018
    I have never tried AirBnb, but I do know there is one in my street, they must be very strict and the owners live there so it is always really quiet. But I am surrounded by holiday rentals, and the real estates that look after them are to blame when we get a rowdy lot, so what difference is it when we can have holiday rentals in residential areas to Airbnb?

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