Smoke alarm and rent rise shocks in Airbnb lets


Smoke alarms that either don’t exist or are covered up, higher rents for permanent residents and a new service that helps hosts find somewhere to stay when they are renting out their entire homes – they’re all part of the “disruptive” effects of short-term holiday lets (STHL) like Airbnb and their ilk.

Our friends at BNBguard have been keeping an eye out for short-term holiday rental scandals and they’ve discovered a report that fewer than half the Airbnbs that allow smoking and only two-thirds of those that ban it have smoke detectors.

And some of units with smoke detectors will have plastic bags covering them – those disposable shower caps have to be useful for something.

The “smoking gun” study was conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who analyzed 413,339 Airbnb listings in 43 international cities across 17 countries, including Australia.

The findings, published online February 22 in the journal Preventive Medicine, highlight the lax safety standards travellers might encounter in residential accommodations when they travel.

“Cigarettes are consistently reported as a leading cause of residential fire deaths,” says Vanya Jones, PhD, the study’s lead. “Given that smoke detectors are an effective way to drastically reduce the number of fire deaths, it is concerning that venues that allow smoking would be less likely to be equipped with smoke detectors.”

Considering the Lacrosse and Neo200 fires in Melbourne, and the fatal Blacktown firs in Sydney were all caused by cigarettes, this is a serious issue.

“More needs to be done to allow councils to enforce compliance at scale,” says Reuben Schwartz of BNBguard. “We’re working on it!”

Meanwhile a new report has proof that, despite Airbnb’s insistent denials, the spread of short-term holiday rentals is pushing up residential rents.

New modelling from the Reserve Bank shows STHLs are having a definite effect on rental prices despite the company’s assertions its business model doesn’t affect Australia’s housing market, according to a report in the New Daily.

University of Sydney professor Peter Phibbs is quotes as saying the “sharp link” between rents and vacancies rates – highlighted by a recent RBA report – demonstrated that home-share services like Airbnb are influencing the housing market.

“Airbnb spends a lot of time saying they have no impact on markets. What this paper shows is that they do,” he said.

Another report shows that regulations in many countries are slowing the spread of STHLs. Although the fact that the STHLs are growing three times as fast in unregulated Melbourne as they are in more restrictive Sydney is all the proof you need.

And finally, what do you do when a tourist wants to your rented apartment and your parents are sick of the sight of you?

As ever, the internet provides. BNBguard have unearthed a website that lets STHL hosts provide a bed for each other while their homes are being “shared”.

“Perfect for tenants subletting on the sly,” says Reuben Schwartz. You can find links to all these stories on BNBguard’s online blog.

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