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WATCH: BHA hits out at Airbnb over ‘professional landlords’

The CEO of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), Ufi Ibrahim, has criticised Airbnb and similar services over ‘professional landlords’ and regulations at a parliamentary committee hearing.

Providing evidence to the Business Innovation and Skills Committee on behalf of the hospitality and tourism industry, Ibrahim argued that home exchange websites are used by “many large-scale landlords, operating multiple properties”.

Websites and smartphone apps which allow users and vendors to transact for services directly – a business model known as the ‘sharing economy’ – are typically intended to service individual homeowners as opposed to ‘professional’ or ‘large-scale’ landlords.

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Ibrahim shared industry research which claimed:

  • 40% of all home-exchange website listings are from ‘professional landlords’ running unregulated ‘pseudo-hotels’
  • The top 1,000 home-exchange hosts are netting £150m of accommodation revenue annually
  • Half of all home-exchange listings are entire properties rather than rooms in host’s own home
  • London is most affected with the largest number of landlords (40% of all listings in London are multiple property owners renting accommodation on a short-term basis year-round)


Accommodation hosts who advertise on platforms such as Airbnb, which last year released a statement claiming that it would clamp down on what it called “illegal hotels”, do not have to meet the same strict regulations as hotels such as planning regulations, food, health and fire safety regulations, and critics accuse them of avoiding tax.

In avoiding planning regulations, the sharing economy has been blamed for causing a further reduction in the already stretched housing market, pushing up rents and property prices.

Ibrahim informed the Select Committee that the industry is “particularly concerned” that the UK’s “trusted reputation as a high quality and safe tourist destination” could be damaged if guest health, safety and security checks are not properly delivered.

At the hearing, the BHA put forward three key proposals to properly regulate home exchange websites and bring them up to the quality standards of the tourism and hospitality industry.

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The proposals:

  • Home exchange websites should share with government bodies (London Authorities and Councils, HMRC) named host level data to demonstrate clearly; Who is letting over 90 nights in London?; How many people are letting out a secondary residence?; How much tax is due on the income?; How staff are employed and paid to service multi-rentals?
  • Home exchange websites should directly restrict landlords from letting out for more than 90 days per year through their platform
  • Home sharing websites should require much stricter checks on safety and security, something other sharing economy platforms, such as Uber, have already implemented


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