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Published on Friday, February 7, 2014

B&Bs under threat from 'neighbours taking paying guests'

Owners of small B&Bs are to ask the government to relax legislation so they're not driven out of business by the growth of websites like Airbnb, which make it easy for individuals with spare rooms to take paying guests.

Writing on TravelMole today David Weston, chief executive of the Bed & Breakfast Association, said that while bona fide B&B owners comply with a list of onerous rules and regulations their neighbours who advertise their spare rooms on the likes of Airbnb might not even be aware they are breaking the law.

Since 2006, anyone who takes paying guests or lets self-catering holiday accommodation must comply with fire regulations, but there is no requirement for them to take any specific action or to have any form of certification. It is up to individual to carry out a risk assessment of their own premises and take the necessary action to ensure their properties are safe.

Weston said that while B&Bs are likely to be inspected by local fire safety officers and obliged to install expensive safety mechanisms such as emergency lighting and fire doors, private dwellings letting rooms 'unofficially' slip under their radar.

"We just want a level playing field," said Weston. "It is unfair of regulators to have a two-tier system with one rule for B&Bs and another for people who advertise for paying guests on Airbnb and other websites.

"Otherwise, our smaller members, those with just two or three guest bedrooms, might as well just take down their signs and advertise on Airbnb as well."

Weston said he would be raising the issue with Helen Grant, the minister responsible for tourism, at a meeting next week.

"What we would prefer is for the rules not to be enforced for B&B owners with one or two guest rooms," he added. "We don't want to close down Airbnb but we want the same rules for everyone."

Weston said he would be raising the matter with Airbnb later this month and suggesting it made hosts aware of their obligations.

Its website does state that hosts should make sure that their premises meet government safety guidelines and that they have a functioning smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher.

However, Weston also queried whether hosts were aware of the need for public liability insurance in case a guest had an accident on their premises, and also that they might be invalidating their house insurance by taking paying guests.

Airbnb does provide a £600,000 guarantee to hosts to cover any damage by guests, but it stresses this is not an insurance policy and doesn't cover the theft of money or securities, collectibles, rare artwork, jewellery, pets or personal liability.

In New York, home owners have been banned from letting entire properties for less than a month via Airbnb following complaints from hotels in the city.


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