Oh wow. The Wall Street Journal is reporting (http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-tries-to-kill-airbnb-1477091713) that New York has signed a law effectively prohibiting advertising your home on a home-sharing site, e.g.: using Airbnb is a criminal offence. Here in 2016, the biggest provider of content is Facebook, the biggest provider of beds is Airbnb and the biggest provider of taxi rides is Uber. None of these companies actually own anything, other than the technology platform; it’s very much a sharing economy.

Financially, it makes sense. Share your asset – everything from your car to your spare room, to apparently, your boat as well – there’s a start-up based in our part of the world (www.bedsonboard.com) that are literally set up to provide the platform for renting out your boat as a bed. The business model makes a huge amount of sense –  that 50ft pleasure yacht sat in a Marina 200 days a year unused burning money becomes an income generating asset. BOOM. SORTED. #WINNER.

But back to New York and Airbnb, is this attempt to:

  1. A big business attempt to crush the little guy through political lobbying? OR
  2. A genuine concern that sharing this types of assets is outside of any regulatory/legal framework? Here in the UK, for rental properties & hotel rooms, we have a large element of legislation behind letting property – Houses of Multiple Occupation, Assured Shorthold Tenancies, Hotels – all of them are forced to have at least basic Health & Safety/Fire Prevention/etc. in place to avoid people living in dangerous shacks. Airbnb rooms have none of this regulation.

If it’s a), well in the end, this will be struck out. It will cost Airbnb a fortune, but it won’t last. If it’s b) it’s a more serious issue. Who is responsible for these properties let under Airbnb? If one was found to be structurally unsound and the roof collapsed on a guest, who is liable? Airbnb was supposed to be more about “sharing your spare room with a few bucks for a few bucks” – but with companies like Airsorted (http://www.airsorted.uk/) now coming into the space who manage the whole property. That’s not “sharing your spare room”, it’s becoming an unregulated holiday/apartment let. Governments don’t like unregulated businesses.

The sharing economy is great, but will the regulation eventually kill it? Uber? Probably not. The drivers are already regulated (private hire licences). Airbnb on the other hand? We’ll see. But now one authority has fired the starting gun, they won’t be the last. Airbnb better be ready for a fight….

Kyle Williamson is Technical Director at Verstech Limited.