Online booking sites for holiday accommodation have been urged to stop holiday-home owners from renting out their properties, after it was found that half or Airbnb owners were still willing to host guests despite the national lockdown.
There are currently strict government guidelines preventing people from booking accommodation unless for work purposes, moving house, or fleeing domestic abuse.
However, an Observer investigation found that 50% of holiday-home owners messaged on Airbnb were happy to proceed with bookings for trips outside of the permitted circumstances.
One Airbnb owner in Birmingham responded: “Yes, you’re very welcome. Three minutes walk away is a lovely boating lake/reservoir. Lots of ducks and wildlife.” when asked if it was possible to bring a child over half-term for a stay.
Airbnb asks customers to confirm that they are staying for a valid reason when making a booking on their website. However, research from the Observer shows that guests are flouting these rules and property owners are continuing to host guests illegally.
Other sites, such as Booking.com, are also allowing people to book trips. Some accommodation owners on the site state that evidence will be needed to support valid bookings, whereas others were happy to book trips without any checks at all.
Labour MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck, said: “Short-let accommodation platforms need to take their responsibilities very seriously, and make clear to hosts that they will not be permitted to flout the rules.
“It simply can’t be left to hard-pressed local councils or national government to monitor and enforce, while both platforms and hosts benefit from the income. This appears to demonstrate why the ‘sharing economy’ shouldn’t escape regulation entirely.”
One Airbnb host told the Observer: “‘We were asked if it was possible for a group of four friends to come to our Airbnb, which of course legally and morally we had to decline.
“While we are aware people are desperate for some respite, it is a national lockdown. It’s very frustrating that some think the rules don’t apply to them.”
An Airbnb spokesperson said: “We take these reports very seriously and are investigating the cases that have been brought to our attention. With lockdowns in place across the UK, stays on Airbnb are only available in limited circumstances, in line with government guidance. The vast majority of hosts follow the rules and our website restricts bookings to guests with legal exemptions.”
A Booking.com spokesperson said: “During this rapidly evolving time, Booking.com is committed to featuring information across its site reiterating to customers that there are currently travel restrictions to consider in many destinations. We have also set up tools to make it easier for accommodations to provide clear information to guests about what national and local measures mean, and to indicate any conditions that may apply, including requiring proof of essential travel where relevant.”
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