Warning for online room rentals

Warning for online room rentals
Source: Supermariolxpt / Flickr

Last week I wrote about customer-to-customer (C2C) networks that allow vehicle owners in San Francisco to rent their bikes and cars to customers. Now a similar scheme, which allows home owners to rent rooms to guests, is attracting a lot of legal attention in the Netherlands.

Airbnb allows anybody to post adverts offering rooms for rent – it currently has accommodation in over 190 countries. Like the schemes described in last week’s post, it is a customer-to-customer (C2C) system where users make their own arrangements regarding duration of rental and price.

Officials in Amsterdam say tourist safety is their main concern – both in terms of personal safety and fire safety in rented rooms which may not have a city-issued permit to host guests for money. It seems likely that they are also somewhat annoyed about unofficial ‘hotels’ renting rooms to tourists without paying tax. It has been reported that in some cases, city officials performing enforcement checks closed down such rooms on the spot, forcing guests onto the street.

Like many new technologies, C2C schemes often exist in legal grey-areas that do not appear to fit into existing laws, while the nature of the Internet makes it hard for governments to monitor, regulate, and – of course – tax such transactions.

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