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Airbnb: new listings will identify ‘business-level’ hosts

Thu 27 Oct 2016

Airbnb listings will soon be able to include additional information to alert potential guests that they are actually staying in someone’s home, rather than entering a business arrangement with the growing and increasingly controversial mega-landlords who use the service as real-estate brokers

Though most of the new information categories – as announced at the home-sharing company’s blog – are voluntary, two apparently are mandatory: that hosts will now have to specify if the space they are offering is a private dwelling, and if they will actually be socialising with their guests (i.e. are likely to be present in the host apartment):

‘Most of the listings on Airbnb are hosts’ personal spaces, which means they have personal furnishings and belongings. We know many Airbnb guests are looking for accommodations that have these personal touches. To make sure guests know what to expect in the space, we will now ask hosts to specify whether their listing is a personal home or not.’

Regarding the social aspect:

‘Some Airbnb hosts personally interact with their guests and it is an important part of the experience. We will now ask hosts to specify whether they are a host who socializes with guests or not.’

Among the apparently non-obligatory new information sections, hosts will ‘be able’ to specify whether they are using the services of property managers, friends, family or other individuals to help them manage their Airbnb hosting activities.

Additionally, Airbnb will introduce new and more granular categories that reflect the diverse types of accommodation that any particular country may offer. Initially, hosts will be able to classify the dwelling as a bed & breakfast room, space in a hostel or nature lodge, a serviced apartment or a boutique hotel. Other categories may be added where appropriate to other countries, such as ‘minsu’ in Taiwan or ‘heritage hotel’ in India.

The timing of the announcement seems opportune, as New York’s troubled relationship with Airbnb flares into crisis, with hosts protesting the city’s newly proposed restrictions outside the governor’s office. The new law, which comes into force next Monday, sets fines of $1000 to $7,500 for hosts that advertise or offer an entire Airbnb apartment in the city for a period of less than thirty days. Though the fines are less than the equivalent which Berlin imposed in May, the greater tourism matrix of New York will be far more affected by them.

Comment The new information categories, the most important two of which are mandatory, will be an important statistical indicator that finally distinguishes casual hosts and dedicated hospitality providers (the B&B/hotels which transparently use Airbnb as a listing service) from multi-property landlords who are in effect using the service to create private hotel chains – and who have become subject to criticism that they are raising property and rental prices in major cities where a generation of post-crisis workers find themselves locked out of the rising property spiral.

Airbnb seems to be resisting growing cultural backlash with what some may consider half-way measures, such as the increased transparency that its new edicts impose upon hosts. Chris Lehane, global head of public policy for Airbnb, offered further conciliatory solutions last week in an article in the New York Daily News, by suggesting not only that hosts be restricted to renting out one entire domicile for the entire five boroughs of New York City, but that Airbnb collect tax on the government’s behalf.

And this is the problem that is likewise affecting Uber – the massive power of the sharing economy, fuelled by continuing austerity measures, is beginning to usurp governmental control over the general economy. And governments have not yet worked out how to get their hands on some of that money without either killing the source of it or becoming unelectable with the dissident masses.

Disenfranchised workers priced out of their own cities are looking enviously at those who either managed to enter the property ladder before it reached unscalable heights or received family help to get over the hump; whilst, as we read in Lehane’s article, propertied New Yorkers consider their own transformation into de facto online multi-tenant landlords to be their right, since they can get no other practical value out of their hyper-priced homes, and since they consider that the continuing post-crisis environment justifies that level of ‘entrepreneurship’.

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