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Airbnb Might Have its Wings Clipped

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - May 2019

Home may be where the heart it is, but for a few years now, home has also been where the spare bedroom was a backpacker’s dream thanks to the app Airbnb. All that may soon be coming to an end however, as the Department of Tourism seeks to tighten the regulatory belt on wanton Airbnb rentals that are undercutting the hotel and guesthouse industry.

A recently published Tourism Amendment Bill in the Government Gazette has travellers and garden cottage owners sweating as Airbnb rentals could now be included under the banner of short-term rentals which could be subject to stricter thresholds. So, should the bill come into effect what does it mean? Let’s give it a quick breakdown below:

  • The introduction of an upper limit in terms of how much to charge for a night’s stay. This is a blessing and a curse because although many Airbnb rentals are more affordable, a select few do take advantage of their guests.
  • It also seeks to introduce new limits on the length of a stay, and although this is not entirely clear, the goal is to return business to hotels and create an even marketplace for both Airbnb rentals and their competitors.
  • There are also talks of a cap on the income of an Airbnb landlord, however, as these are early days may change with future drafts of the amendment.
  • Lastly, and perhaps a welcome regulation for average homeowners, Airbnb landlords will have to abide by the zoning laws proposed by the bill, including a minimum distance between Airbnb rooms and hotels. Therefore the risk of being the only permanent resident in an apartment block full of Airbnb influencers is greatly reduced.

While this may seem draconian and unfair to those who benefit from the Airbnb business model, the need for regulation seems fair in a country like ours, where tourism is a large factor in the economy. And, economics aside, a better regulated Airbnb will mean safer spaces for guests, better amenities and a more openly competitive market.

The bill is currently (as of 12 April 2019) available for public comment for 60 days. So should you have some advice for our lawmakers, a vested interest in keeping your holiday home profitable or simply want to get rid of the troves of travel influencers coming and going from your neighbour’s garden rental, now is the time to make your voice heard.

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