OPINION: Overregulation of Airbnb needs to stop

Visitors and travelers looking to take up short-term residency in almost any city, whether it is a place to stay while looking for an apartment, or while trying to visit a half-dozen cities in a couple weeks, can skip spending hundreds of dollars on hotels by booking on Airbnb.

But Airbnb’s website and app, which allows users to book anything from a couch to a room to an entire luxury condo, has recently been facing scrutiny and crackdowns from cities around the world.

Irvine is issuing warnings, and possibly fines ranging from $100 to $500, according to research by OC Register. A data dump in New York led to warnings by the city’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Chicago may employ a 4 percent surcharge on Airbnb listings, and in Berlin, it is now illegal to rent out an entire apartment.

Airbnb successfully found a way for travelers to evade the daunting prices of hotels, and in the process opened opportunities for people to visit cities they originally could not afford to visit. But as regulations and crackdowns become stricter, these opportunities for cheap travel will begin to close.

It is no secret that technology is changing the dynamic of big business. Companies like Amazon are knocking out brick and mortar retailers. Netflix destroyed Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. Uber and Lyft are slowly making taxis obsolete.

This is the shape of change, and although it is painful for some businesses, cheaper and more convenient solutions are taking their place.

Airbnb is giving landlords and homeowners a way to make money by renting out unused space, and is providing an affordable alternative to hotels for broke travelers. But naturally, any entity that allows users to independently make money must be warned against, fined, scrutinized and eventually regulated and taxed.

Listings should not break laws, but in many cities, listing an entire apartment or home violates short-term leasing and zoning laws. It is expected that law-breaking landlords receive warnings and fines from officials.

But creating stricter regulations because outsiders are not wanted in a city, or because a company created a platform for users to autonomously make money, should be seen for what it is: cities and big businesses getting bummed out because they are not included.

According to an OC Register article, some Orange County have asked for stricter enforcement, complaining about “late-night parties, trashed streets and streams of strangers in their neighborhoods.”

There is an easy fix for Airbnb hosts who want to weed out rowdy renters: turn off “instant book.”

Typically on Airbnb, the person wanting to rent the space has to send a request, and after the host approves them, they can reserve the listing. “Instant book” allows any potential renter with any amount of negative feedback to reserve and pay for a listing without any approval from the host.

There are still dozens of active listings in Orange County beginning at $29 for a private room. Summer travelers looking to reserve a listing in Orange County can still evade costly hotel visits, but it is unclear how long that will last.

 

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