1. To protect hotel owners and operators.
2. To protect consumers. They are guaranteed that the hotel has proper insurance, for example.
3. To protect neighbours. You can't open up a hotel in the house next door for much the same reasons that you can't open a pub or an aluminum smelter.
4. And yes, there is some rent seeking behaviour. I'll just mention transient accommodation taxes.
You may agree or disagree with the various laws to various degrees, but you must admit that they exist for a reason. By all means discuss reforms that can be made, but please stop with the "these laws are stupid" or "serve no purpose" sort of sentiments.
How about this: "These laws do not exist in most places and those places haven't descended into anarchy, nor have they suffered any visible damage because they don't have them. Therefore it might be reasonable to suspect these laws aren't needed".
Alberta law is similar; I don't know about any other province, but I would be surprised if there were substantial differences.
These laws aren't new - UK lodging laws go back several hundred years.
If you run a bed & breakfast (<10 rooms, generally) you are still subject to regulations that a private homeowner would not have to comply with.
Unfortunately, it's impractical if not impossible to regulate behavior based on _frequency_ unless you're going to continually monitor the activity.
So by your reasoning, the gun laws in NYC aren't needed.
There are people who say they aren't. The ones in NYC are fairly reasonable though, even if they seem to just mainly cost a lot of money and paperwork for a tiny niche of hobbyists. There are nice shooting ranges in several parts of the city proper though. Unfortunately I moved to Chicago, which has much more crime despite absolutely absurd gun laws.
That's right. They aren't.
It's always a mystery to me why people just assume that criminals are going to pay attention whatsoever to gun laws.
That said, to address your rhetorical point...it's not just about hardened criminals. It's not an either or situation...there's many types of states between evil criminal and innocent civilian. Just as suicide barriers and other inconveniences actually deter suicides...even though you think that anyone who would commit suicide would bypass them...gun control laws deter those who would commit gun crimes just because they had a gun at the moment.
I'll give you a concrete example. In NYC, I've seen pedestrians and cyclists kick and punch cars that nearly run them over...and this is not an uncommon sight during rush hour, this is something I almost NEVER saw anywhere else...because in those places, you had to worry that the driver was legally carrying a gun.
In NYC, of course, the driver could conceivably have a gun...but you know what, that is a very unlikely situation, because it is not worth carrying a gun in the event that you get pulled over for a traffic infraction. And so those who might commit a crime out of hotheadedness are significantly inconvenienced by gun control laws...reducing the chance that any hothead fight results in gunfire.
And in a city as tightly packed as NYC, that is not a non-trivial benefit. I haven't been in favor of gun control laws in any of the rural areas I've lived, but in NyC, I realize it's a different situation that requires different thinking on the laws.
Currently, especially in europe, airbnb seems to be borderline legal for people who don't own licences. Inevitably airbnb will have to find common ground with local authorities, instead of relegating the issue to individual users. After all it's in their interest.
That being said, its still a valid point...hotel customers need "protection" from unscroupulous "hoteliers" becase, for example, they are tourists from a foreign country or small-town USA etc and are thus less sophisticated and make easy prey (historically) for scam-artists (bait ans switch rooms, or general hold-up probelms, etc).
The Interesting question is this: Does the transparency and accountability of Online provide adequate protection? If it does not, does it have the potential to? Back in the day (like, pre-ww2) its easy to imagine things going on in hotels that hurt clients but were "behind the scenes" with no proof other than he-said-she-said. But now we have e-mail, terms of service, electronic booking, CCTV and other things that might change the calculus a bit--at the public policy level.
Open for debate, at least.
Yes, of course, I mean protected from the government, but I also mean protected from customers, and protected from less scrupulous competition (which may be uncomfortably close to the point that tlrobinson was trying to make, but you have to understand that the airbnb owners are generally not following the same rules that the hotels are required to).
I am just waiting for the first time someone gets sued because they didn't post the rates and a map to the fire escape on the back of the door.
Arguably a sub-letted property needs to be habitable (landlord to let), so this should be ~covered. And with "yelp" style reviews hopefully discloure is possible (ie, are the linens Ok or is there mold etc). But there are some things that have health considerations...cross-contamination, rodents, etc. And who is responsible? Is this OK at "caveat emptor"?
These are interesting fundamental questions about how much its possible for private contracts to work with/out Gov't regulation. Its exciting to think about ways to solve these problems (ie, not just gloss them over) with technology rather than with politics/bureaucrats, etc. That is: if it is possible, or not.
These same arguments apply to family and friends coming for a visit and crashing at your place. Or to a kid's sleep-over for that matter.
> From your mother-in-law to the UPS delivery guy, when someone else sets foot on your property, you could be liable if they’re injured, whether you did anything to cause the injury or not.
Due to the US notion of "join and several liability", one would imagine in such cases that both the renter and the landlord would be sued by the guest, and in the end it would likely be the landlord (who probably moves larger amounts of money) that would end up paying, requiring them to get it back from the renter.
I imagine this is one of the reasons (in addition to situations involving squatters, etc. <-) why many rental agreements actually have limits on the ability for you to even have guests that stay for more than a few days at a time more often than every few weeks or months.
The situations really aren't comparable - in the same way that (topically) giving a ride to a friend isn't comparable to running a taxi service.
Framing it as an absurd, antiquated law is hardly charitable.
It does suggest that looking at these laws en-toto and updating them for modern living (lifestyles, technology, etc) might warranted. And that updates might-be net-beneficial to society. Its not clear they need whole-sale revision thought.
We're going through this now with e-mail and cloud privacy laws that are out of date, too. Its not just a cheap shot at one state or one industry.
We already have laws that govern private contracts between individuals, protect private property, and protect individuals from being an undue burden on one another.
Who gives them the right to protection?
We do, because we struck up a deal with them that obligated them to pay fees and comply with onerous regulations to ensure public safety. We have, in effect, a contract with them. If we want to amend the terms of that contract, we amend the law.
I never signed a contract.
Hotel owners, operators, and employees are all represented, tax-paying members of our society. What exactly makes them unworthy of protection moreso than yourself?
What's embarrassing about it is that you obviously don't grok the difference between investors and speculators. An investor is someone who spends time and money on something in the hopes that its growth or development or even upkeep will eventually provide a return. This is almost always a good thing. A speculator --- like an investment banker or VC --- leverages capital to place bets, and any good that comes from those bets is an unintended consequence.
You will have a very hard time reasoning about most of western civilization if you start from a point that equates all investment with speculation.
I love Airbnb. I have had nothing but good experiences with them directly and I hope they succeed beyond their wildest imaginings. But if you're a renter, not an owner, and letting your place out on Airbnb without checking your lease, you've reneged on a contract. Not a shrink-wrap or click-through or EULA, but an ink and paper contract that every tenants rights group in the country tells you to read carefully.
The one time I've been in civil court ever was with a landlord; I have had nothing but bad experiences with landlords and think poorly of virtually every one I've had. But the flip side of that is, if I expect landlords to be compelled into making repairs or returning security deposits, I have to hold up my end of the contract as well.
Airbnb shouldn't have to warn renters to read their damned leases.
There are limits in different jurisdictions about how enforceable some of these clauses are. But subletting contracts tend to hold up.
This means that the person staying in your home is not a friend of a friend and no longer a customer. It ceases to be a sublet, and is now you housing a friend's friend.
Intent is there. But it gets you off the hook for breaking the contract. It instead puts you on the hook for inducing someone else to break a contract, which is a harder case to prove.
"Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Airbnb today announced the launch of a new platform to help connect victims of Hurricane Sandy with free housing options. Airbnb is now providing a platform to connect those who are eager to offer free housing to those who have been displaced by the storm."
Or are you saying that if BP steps in with a generous donation of gasoline supplies during a natural disaster, the government should give them more leeway in environmental regulations?
Cities cap rents in an effort to rein in rapacious landlords, this 'traps' money in the system (whenever you artificially price something you open up the possibility that there is demand in excess of supply). AirBnb figures out a scheme to liberate that trapped money by enlisting the folks who are benefiting from the cap (tenants) at the expense of the folks who aren't getting the money (landlords).
So it is totally in the selfish interest of landlords to hire a third party, have them avail themselves of the service at any building where the landlord has tenants and such a service is in violation of the rent, and then to use the resulting lease violation to evict the tenant, allowing rent to rise and then capturing the money for themselves.
Its really really really important to read your lease. Seriously.
There was an AirBnb story posted here a while ago about a NY tenant and AirBnb provider that got a letter from his landlords lawyer to cease and desist because it was a violation of his lease and oh by the way it was competing with rooms the landlord had set up.
Edit: Found the HN story: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4074105
Not sure if you actually need the whole fake customer scheme you describe though, I am sure a landlord could easily get enough evidence without doing this.
I disagree. To use some examples given in the original article: how about a guest being able to rent a room in a neighborhood that doesn't have any hotels? Or a host being able to earn money renting out an apartment that would otherwise sit empty?
Which is not to say that your other points about pricing and risk are not valid, of course.
My neighbor is an airbnb apartment. At first it bothered me that new people were staying there every week, but I realized the benefits. The people who stay there are always quiet and respectful, and I know the place is cleaned regularly (no rats/cockroaches coming from there). I think it works out well for my landlord too.
If you take AirBNB to its logical conclusion, you end up with landlords renting apartments on AirBNB instead of to actual residents, because they can make more that way -- because they're ducking the rules on offering commercial lodging, not paying for proper insurance, not paying taxes, etc.
I'm sure if someone ran a hotel but didn't bother with commercial fire codes and local taxes, they could charge less too.
This is exactly what happens in Paris. Housing market there is skewed due to exactly this behavior. People buy apartments and sit on them to rent them out short term. Over time it created a situation where people who I would classify as "working poor", were without housing. It struck me as strange when I was in college to see SDF who have to go to work.
Under any sane market, untapped demand creates its own supply.
Big cities, though, have big governments that forbid new construction. This works very well for those who already own property (they have their rental prices driven up), and works very well for the politicians (who get donations from the existing property owners) but works poorly for everyone else.
Property owners do have an interest in the use and enjoyment of their property, and it is they, rather than government itself, that tend to raise a fuss when new construction is proposed. After all, local government makes quite a lot of money from new construction - permit fees, increased spending by construction workers, increased tax revenue on the newly developed property, and so forth. Likewise, politicians get donations from developers, and often larger ones than from residents since developers have deeper pockets. On the other hand, developers only have one vote each and tend to be outnumbered by residents, whose interests often prevail for this reason.
If you own your own home, you would probably not be thrilled if the lot next door was suddenly the site of a ten-story apartment building without you being consulted or compensated. If you don't like it, it's not like you can just move, and selling your property might involve a rather steep loss, depending on the quality and configuration of the new development. If you rent, it's easy to be indifferent to those considerations because you don't have any assets at risk.
Also, home ownership is not an investment opportunity for most people, who are looking for a place to live long-term rather than to flip or extract cash value from (the departure from this historical approach has a lot to do with the recent financial crisis). Rather, most homeowners want to extract use value and simply maintain the asset price.
That sounds very naive, and is extremely difficult to believe, unless hotels played no role in advocating the regulations. Besides, if that were the purpose, then why not ask the Airbnb renter and occupants if everything was up to their standards, and if both parties were happy (which is presumably the case, since most Airbnb transactions are presumably voluntary), drop the charges?
When laws protecting Taxi monopolies claim to be for consumer protection, nobody here buys it. Those laws are for the protection of Taxi companies and unions. These laws are more of the same.
I believe laws protecting Taxis are for consumer protection, and so are the hotel laws.
While I do not claim these laws are perfect, I believe they continue to serve an important real purpose.
That is a legitimate viewpoint, but I find it surprising to hear it here. It was not my intent to marginalize.
Why not? I mean, at this point your argument seems to be along the lines of "ah, but that's what they'd want you to think".
The vast majority of taxi laws are to protect the consumer: for example, obliging taxis to take you anywhere within the city limits clearly is of far more benefit the consumer than the taxi driver (the driver may not want to go to areas where there are fewer fares, for example.
Another example - here in London hackney drivers (taxis you can hail) must take an extensive test requiring memorisation of virtually every street. Again, this is of far more benefit to the consumer (a taxi driver who knows where he's going) than the driver (who has to spend a lot of time and money preparing for the test). Criminal background checks for taxi drivers: how is this not for consumer protection?
If you're going to claim that these regulations are primarily to serve business interests rather than consumers then please do, but at least cite a few examples. I'm sure they exist: I don't propose every regulation governing hotels and taxis are in the consumer's favor.
I did not think specific examples of taxi regulation were really necessary. HN always seems to be awash with stories about taxi corporations/unions with their pet politicians trying to shut down Uber for being unconventional in various ways. Uber is not harming consumers (in fact, they are better for consumers in many ways. For example due to the way that they work Uber drivers cannot discriminate against consumers by race, which is a large problem with regular taxis, at least in the States.), but Taxi companies/unions are wielding existing regulations, or even crafting new regulations, as weapons against what they perceive to be a threat to their business.
Aren't you leaving consumers out of the equation? After a decade of living in London, where Black Cab drivers are required to pass a stringent test of street knowledge (you can see would-be cab drivers zipping around London in the evenings on small motorcycles), I find it infuriating that American cab drivers frequently have no idea how to get me to my destination. As often as not I'm taking a cab because I don't know how to get where I'm going in the time available.
I have frequently raged against the taxi monopoly and in support of Uber, but as much because the licensed taxi drivers provide a crap service as anything else. If they were held to high standards by a regulator (as they are in some places) then I'd be a lot more supportive of restricted entry.
Also, what about the next Internet taxi startup, and the one after that? Ending up with many tiny Internet companies would end us up in the same situation as unregulated taxis, where people end up getting badly ripped off?
> must take an extensive test requiring memorisation of virtually every street
Both of these could be things the bigger taxi companies already did willingly, but then pushed for legislation when competing upstarts began undercutting them by offering service only to high traffic routes. If the big taxi companies already do it, they are unharmed by the legislation, but competing companies much spend resources to follow the new regulations.
If I rent a room from you, and stick my hand in your meat grinder, who gets sued? Are you personally insured against such events? Is your landlord insured against temporary tenants?
These aren't unsolvable problems, but are why the laws exist as they do. The hotel pays money for insurance, which protects the consumer. Most AirBnB hosts don't, and that gives them a competitive advantage achieved by someone along the line breaking a law.
If Walmart could figure out a way to make a law banning local businesses look like it was for consumer protection, they would attempt it in a heartbeat. Consumer protection is how you sell corporate protection laws.
We have to be willing to consider putting things called "consumer protection laws" on the chopping block. Calling these things "consumer protection laws" affords them more protection than they may be deserving of, because who doesn't like protecting consumers? It just sounds like a great thing to do.
Calling your law a "consumer protection law" is (or rather, can be) basically a more advanced form of naming your law cleverly enough that it forms a "patriotic" acronym.
For what reason? I'm not engaged enough to do the work, but I bet the word "liability" comes up if you look into why these laws exist.
My point is, that there is more to the story than greedy hoteliers.
(I understand there are other issues as well. I don't want my neighbor running a hotel.)
Asserted without evidence.
(Edited from "instead of" to "but not", since the original assertion was that they only help hotel owners.)
They do reduce injuries and deaths from car accidents, which otherwise impose a high cost upon society.
Now I can understand trying to protect against some crazy welding his own frames in his backyard, but these are cars built by Ford and GM and driven millions of miles on tougher roads than any over here. Completely knackered.
Five figure fines are completely unreasonable
There's also got to be a real cost to the local government to keep checking up on the people that have been previously caught, a fine large enough to put a serious dent in the finances of the person responsible should be large enough to cover the costs associated with investigations and court cases.
I imagine in a world before the internet, this kind of thing was actually quite necessary. It would have been much harder to know any sort of details before booking a room in the night in a particular city (I don't know, I was born in 86). I'm guessing hotel regulations were written to maintain a baseline of quality, and regulations like the one this guy was fined under were written to keep people from getting around them.
Similar to the regulations on driving people around for money that Getaround and others are being fined for, to keep you from hailing a cab driven by a drunken, unlicensed cabbie.
At this point, though, it mainly seems that entrenched players like hotels and taxi companies are seeking rent.
I love the quote from the SF landlord at the end, celebrating the fact that infractions like these can be used to evict tenants and raise rents. We love you too, Ms. New.
1) The housing market in SF is crazy right now (obviously this is hardly their fault)
2) There are thousands of available AirBnB rooms available in SF. A quick search far out returns over 2700 - thats 2700 (or more) rooms that people could be living in.
3) San Francisco has very strict rent control (whether or not that is a good thing is out of the scope of this comment), so in many cases tenants are reaping far more money from Airbnb then they pay in rent because their rent effectively hasn't increased, ever. This is absurdly disfunctional.
4) Regardless of laws, short term rentals are already against more or less against every lease agreement or HOA agreement.
I really couldn't care less about the hotel industry.
That's a situation where creating more supply by renting out your room when you go on trips can be really helpful. Supply goes up, demand stays the same, rents fall.
#2 I think is an exaggeration of what's happening. Most places listed on AirBNB are occupied by owners putting their place up when they leave town. A few maybe not, but even in that case, why favor long-term renters over short-term renters?
#4 is a great point, but insurmountably restrictive laws make things worse by not allowing people to come to negotiated agreements with their landlords on using AirBNB. E.g., I'm sure landlords would be more amenable if they got a cut.
My take on this is that the problem here is that it's basically impossible to jump through the hoops necessary to legitimately rent out your room for a weekend, and that seems silly. You should be able to just fill out a form with the city, maybe pay a registration fee, and agree to comply with regulations.
Growing up poor in San Francisco. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/poor-k...
This 11 year old girl seems extremely gifted. Her vocabulary and insight in astounding. She could be the next great innovator or artist but we don't do enough to help people like her act on their potential.
For example, Nevada enacted statewide regulations on sprinklers and other fire safety in large hotels after the 1980 MGM Grand fire, which killed 87 and injured 700: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/1980/nov/23/mgm-fire-may-mea...
(Vegas in particular seems to have a major hotel fire about every 10 years.)
There's also the aspect of protecting travelers - you often book at a hotel sight unseen, and when you get there you don't really have any ability to assess the safety of a lodging. It's one of those places where the free market is just not going to work that well, since you can't expect everyone to be a fire inspector.
Additionally, you have taxes and fees charged by a city that help defray the cost of regulating and inspecting those providers, as well as helping cover city services utilized by visitors (who probably do not pay income tax, etc locally.)
I suspect that if AirBNB users had to carry commercial liability insurance, submit to inspections and file proper taxes, the appeal of hosting would go way down.
Adam Smith is useful here. All regulation is created on behalf of business interests and is justified through the public interest.
If everybody rented extra unused "space" and the market was fluid, this would substantially impact the profitability of the hospitality industry.
Who wants to live next to a hotel?
If you want the laws to go, you'll need to build a larger business constituency for lobbying and then convince the public that their private property rights are being violated. Two step process.
That is not what Adam Smith says. His argument that regulations proposed by men of business should be closely scrutinized, since those proposals are almost always meant to further the interests of the business owners rather than the public. He does not assume the same of regulation in general, and is much more sympathetic to the interests of households and laborers than is commonly supposed.
convince the public that their private property rights are being violated
You don't have a property interest in a tenant lease whose terms you choose to violate. Note from the article that it's perfectly OK to let your spare room, as long as you yourself are there to take responsibility for the behavior of your guests.
All regulations are proposed by men of business.
> Note from the article that it's perfectly OK to let your spare room
If you read the article, which mostly speaks about NYC, you'd know that's not OK. You're not permitted to lease any property for less than 30 days.
Was Ralpha Nader in any way connected to seatbelt companies when he proposed seatbelt and safety laws for automobiles?
I'm sure the seat-belt manufacturers had nothing to do with them becoming mandatory, right?
Remember, I said regulation requires two components. A business interest with money to "grease the wheels" of government and a public interest component that convinces the public that it's wonderful for them. The seat-belt manufacturers provided the former, Mr. Nader the later. There doesn't need to be direct cooperation. Merely the presence of both.
Not that seat-belts don't save lives, they certainly do, but don't kid yourself ... there is always somebody who wins and somebody who loses with each regulation passed, somebody who makes money and someone who loses just smidgen of their liberty.
Again, read Adam Smith.
(If you meet a Republican or Libertarian who praises deregulation of something, this is a primary reason why.)
If the next door apartment starts renting to a different person each night, the security (perceived or not) that you once had inside your building or complex has been compromised.
Also, having an apartment on your floor that's being rented out often means the social norms associated with close neighbors aren't respected in terms of noise, etc.
If a transient neighbor is too loud, you have no "social" recourse, because they have no incentive to accommodate you.
People that run illegal hotels are doing the same thing: for every million guests, one guy gets a $45,000 fine. That works out to 4 cents per guest, which is a risk most people will take without thinking.
That's not the app's fault, but it's not the only case where people have got into accidents because they were pursuing the status of fastest rider on a particular route. Where rewarding people (even intangibly) encourages them to push up against the limits of safety/legal restrictions, there's an argument for proximate causation, eg 'but for Appmaker's reward of an exclusive title (King of the Mountain) to the fastest cyclist on that stretch of road, Cyclist would not have habitually ridden at such high and dangerous speeds.'
It's not a million miles away from prosecuting people for organizing street racing: http://twitdoc.com/upload/onaccel/san-diego-illegal-street-r...
There's still some rallies around that run on public streets, but usually winning is based on _matching_ some target time, rather than having the shortest time overall.
The reason Airbnb isn't providing (and are unlikely to provide) legal warnings to its prospective hosts is that instead of being on the hook for one potential legal violation (N.Y. MDW. Law section 304(1)(a)), they'd be on the hook for two.
Advising hosts to obey the local laws in its jurisdiction is pretty harmless. Advising hosts what the law is, on the other hand, could be construed as the unauthorized practice of law, and could get Airbnb into even more hot water. See, e.g., N.Y. Judiciary Law section 495.
"Could you afford the kinds of fines that Mr. Warren was facing? If not, take your listing down."
This assumes that a majority of hosts are breaking the law. Yet early in the article the author claims:
"...he was breaking the law. And that law says you cannot rent out single-family homes or apartments, or rooms in them, for less than 30 days unless you are living in the home at the same time."
I've stayed at roughly a dozen AirBnB listings, and only once was the host not living in the home during my stay. In fact, as the article mentions, that's a big part of the AirBnB guest experience-- interacting with the hosts.
Perhaps the problem is that many hosts are treating their homes as small hotels, letting out all the rooms and moving themselves elsewhere. Curtailing this practice would avoid legal issues and improve the guest experience. A win-win if you ask me!
That said, it's a legitimate story. People are breaking the law and not even aware of it. Even if it is a "hit" piece, the concern is real.
Or maybe AirBnB is similar enough to craigslist and newspapers hate craigslist because it killed print.
I'm all for critical thinking, but not when it flouts occam's Razor just for the hell of it.
That's a bit more than just reporting the facts.
CouchSurfing > AirBNB, Hitch hiking > Zimride, Sidecar, etc.
There's still no enforceable law against generosity.
This seems like something you can't half-ass.
How are they in a "much better position" to know what weird condition exists in someone's lease, or what might be in the articles of some random HOA?
Just how far does this go? Should (e.g.) a company that sells mail-order baby chicks do research to find out that (e.g.) the local ordinances where I live prohibit keeping more than two of any one kind of animal within the city limits?
That's half the point. The other half is that nearly everyone who rents out spaces on AirBnB is likely breaking a local law or tenant agreement. These laws occur on a broad enough scale, globally, that the customer should be warned.
It looks pretty thorough to me.
Create short-term, non-complicated licenses that expire after a couple of days. Require signature of surrounding neighbors. Charge $25.
I can see that being good to the coffers.
What is clear to me is that this sort of spot enforcement is a waste of taxpayer money and doesn't serve to help anyone. I hope we can work towards real legal reform as companies like Airbnb and Uber drive innovation in our cities.
Conversely, the entranceway door to a condo is a security feature that all owners have a shared responsibility for. If I was one of the other owners (or even a renter) how would I feel about another person renting their condo out on a nightly basis to anyone willing to pay for it? I'm pretty torn on the issue.
Nothing is going to change unless a large class action suit is brought against Airbnb. I can tell you right now their site disclaimer won't help them in a court of law.
-- Says guy who doesn't care/read what he signs?