AirBnB announce new London restrictions

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Our draft response to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Leisure and Tourism’s inquiry into the sharing economy which was circulated for comment earlier in the week has now been submitted without further amendment.  It is accessible at:  https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/appg-sharing-economy-inquiry-closes-25-nov-16/ .

Yesterday in response to their own consultation and calls from the MPs and the London Assembly to restrict home sharing in London, due to its impacts upon the longer term rental markets, AirBnB has announced that from next year entire home listings that exceed 90 days in the Greater London area will be automatically excluded, unless the hosts have certified that the property has the appropriate local permission.  Currently in greater London any property let on a short-term basis for more than 90 days in any one year must have planning permission for that usage.

This all sounds very encouraging but as ever the devil is vested in the detail: its only in London, its only currently AirBnB, it applies only to entire home lets (house/apartments), it is for the period physically let, not the period made available for let, the processes for switching off the automatic exclusion are still under development but it is intimated and would be normal AirBnB practice for it to be based on a self-certification and, critically, AirBnB are making it clear that they have not and will not be sharing any of the host’s details with local authorities in London in order to implement this.

In the ideal world AirBnB appear to be addressing a known problem and may have done so in time and to a degree that will defuse calls for more robust regulatory controls such as those implemented in several other Capital Cities. Unfortunately back in the real world the opportunity for individual abuse of this and many other rules and regulations remains as local and national authorities haven’t the resource or indeed arguably the appropriate means in a digital world to cross check who is letting  what, let alone who in London’s case is letting in excess of 90 days.  This is basic information that is readily available to the sharing platform operators, if only they were willing to share it?

It is ironic that the sharing culture that these business models and the, sharing economy movement are based on doesn’t, in this instance, extend to sharing entirely legitimate, factual information with those legally responsible, publicly accountable, local and national authorities that are charged with looking after the best interest of the whole community.

A big well done to AirBnB for rising to the immediate challenge but there is still much more they and other platform providers can do, most of it around the sharing of basic information with those who legitimately have a need to know.  These developments in London do of course give us a new opportunity to monitor how effective changes are and to develop evidenced arguments for further change in London and for the rest of the UK, as appropriate.

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