Unregulated short-term letting put travellers at risk

A hand holds a set of keys above a neatly made bed

Popular accommodation letting platforms including Airbnb, are under scrutiny as the number of casual landlords increases in the country’s capital and a rental ‘crisis’ is declared. But could these unregulated short-term lets also be putting travellers at risk?

According to citymetric.com (who originally published the story), sites like Airbnb, Booking.com and TripAdvisor now hold the monopoly on short-term lets, with as many as 1 in 50 properties in London listed for rent by unregulated landlords on these platforms.

Under the Deregulation Act 2015, property owners can rent their homes for a maximum of 90 days a year without the need for planning permission to convert the accommodation to a hotel. Yet, despite the £20,000 fine, the legislation is regularly flaunted by landlords who are well aware of the struggle local authorities have to monitor and enforce the regulation. And with the prospect of earning far more per month renting to short-term rather than long-term tenants, owners are incentivised to take the risk.

For London residents looking to rent property on a permanent basis, the practice has obvious implications. News outlets and charities have warned of dwindling housing stock and rising rents. But there are also implications for the travellers for whom the rentals serve.

The price of convenience

Enticed by the abundance of choice (especially in prime locations) and the quick and easy booking process, travellers lured in by convenience may be unaware of the risk they are taking. Perhaps the biggest issues: travellers do not always know who their landlord is or have much information about the accommodation they are renting.

Yes, they may have a name and contact details, but is the landlord experienced? Could they resolve a problem, big or small? How quickly would they act? As for the property, not only could it not be as advertised, but a casual let is unlikely to meet standard health and safety regulations and therefore fall outside travel policy.

Corporate travel policy

For corporates, these revelations may seem irrelevant – Airbnb has long been regarded as an unviable option because of the problems it presents for travel policy and legal obligations like duty of care. But none the less, traveller employees continue to push their employers to reconsider their stance – no doubt in part because of the platforms perceived monopoly and promises to tighten and improve rental policies in favour of travellers. Stories like this, however, demonstrate that these platforms still have a long way to go before they can truly court the corporate travel market.

So how can corporates keep their travellers happy and stay within policy? One option is to work with a partner that can source quality serviced accommodation stock in key locations—close to amenities, transports links, landmarks and central business districts. But importantly, can also ensure compliance by pre-approving suppliers and properties.


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