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NYC bill could force Airbnb to turn over its hosts' info

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Supporters of Airbnb hold a rally on the steps of New York City Hall showing support for the company on October 30, 2015 in New York City. Andrew Burton via Getty Images

The New York City Council voted in support of regulation that would force Airbnb, HomeAway and other short-term rental services to hand over about hosts using their sites. State law already prohibits rentals of most apartments for less than 30 days unless the permanent tenant is there, but it enforcement has not been thorough. If this bill takes effect, that could change quickly.

Earlier this year a similar law forcing renters to register took effect in San Francisco and half of Airbnb’s listings disappeared. According to the city council, short-term rental listings reduce the amount of affordable housing available and drive up rents for residents. Airbnb could sue to try and stop the bill from being signed into law, opposing it on the grounds of privacy for hosts. The company also claims that despite what council members have said about landlords using the sites instead of taking on long-term tenants, it benefits regular people who use listings to help pay their bills.

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Airbnb test allows hosts to get paid faster

July 3, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Issei Kato / Reuters

While Airbnb users can book accommodations far in advance, hosts usually have to wait until 24 hours after the scheduled check-in time to see any payment. Now, Airbnb is testing a new feature that allows hosts to get their cash earlier. The new payout system sends 50 percent of the money to hosts three days after the guest has booked a stay; the other 50 percent will arrive 24 hours after check in.

This new system is being aimed at Professional Hosts, a group that Airbnb defines at having six or more listings on the site, though the new system is also available to regular hosts. It’s currently invitation only, and according to TechCrunch, this is just a test to see how many hosts are interested. We’ve reached out to Airbnb for confirmation on the test.

If you do opt into early payouts, there’s a catch: Airbnb will take an additional 1 percent of the booking subtotal. However, you can opt out at any time. If a booking is cancelled and you’ve already received a payment, Airbnb will simply deduct it from your next reservation.

This isn’t the first tweak that Airbnb has made to its payment system recently. Back in January, the company began allowing users to pay 50 percent upon booking instead of the total amount in many cases. During a test, the company found that the new policy led to users booking with double the lead time and splurging on higher value rentals.

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Airbnb strengthens Paris presence thanks to Century 21

June 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Rob LeFebvre/Engadget

Airbnb has clashed with cities where it operates for awhile over regulations specific to each. Back in December, authorities in Paris started cracking down harder on the service to comply or face legal consequences. Airbnb has a new strategy to play by the rules in France’s most populous city: Partnering with international real estate company Century 21 to make sure everyone gets their cut.

Back in December, the city started requiring anyone who wanted to rent their apartment to register it with city authorities to track compliance with ordinances. They flagged listings from unregistered homes and requested Airbnb take them off the platform, in part to stop subletting without landlord approval. But this deal ropes in building owners (and, incidentally, a real estate company) to make sure everyone gets paid when a tenant sublets their apartment.

Under the new agreement, a Parisian renter keeps 70 percent of the guest’s fee for staying, with 23 percent going to the landlord and the remaining seven percent heading to Century 21. (Airbnb retains its traditional service charge on top of the fee.) The owner must give permission for the tenant to rent out their apartment, and they can only sublet it for 120 days out of the year, a persisting restriction that authorities enacted late last year.

Per a press release, the arrangement only applies to Parisian buildings managed by the real estate company in the city’s first through fourth arrondissements (administrative districts), at least for now. If it’s successful, the model could extend to other French areas.

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August automatically creates smart lock codes for Airbnb guests

June 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Andrew Tarantola/Engadget

Locks are a pain with home rental services like Airbnb, whether you’re a host or a guest. Do you really want to pick up a spare key, or make the host generate a smart lock code just for you? August thinks it can make life a little easier on that front. If an Airbnb host has August’s Smart Keypad, and one of its Smart Locks, they can automatically generate an entry code the moment you make a reservation. The code is timed for the length of the reservation and adapts to changes, so hosts won’t have to worry about unscrupulous guests wandering in after their stay is over.

If you’re on the receiving end of the code, you’ll get email that explains just what kind of access (PIN code, August mobile app or both) you’ll have for your visit.

This makes the most sense for regular Airbnb hosts, but it’s still important for home rentals at large. Right now, the expectations for these services tend to vary wildly from host to host. Technology like this is not only more convenient, but might create a more consistent experience where you’re not quite so worried about basics like getting inside.

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What You Should Know About Traveling to Japan Now that Airbnb Laws Are Changing 

June 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Kyoto, JapanPhoto: Patrick Allan

It’s not a good time for Airbnb hosts or renters in Japan right now: The private residence renting service was recently forced to cancel thousands of already booked and paid reservations in Japan, all thanks to a new set of Japanese laws that went into effect on June 15. Here’s what’s going on over there, and what you can do if you were planning on renting with Airbnb in Japan in the near future.

The new Japanese regulations, or laws regarding minpaku (private lodging businesses), require hosts throughout the country to register for new licenses and follow new rules, which are directly affecting any reservations that were scheduled between June 15 and June 19. Basically, if you had a scheduled rental in Japan right now, you probably don’t anymore. According to Airbnb, the Japanese government was unwilling to grant private lodging businesses much of a grace period, even if they were in the process of registration for a new license:

“Unfortunately, the Japanese government issued a sudden announcement on June 1 instructing any host without a license number to cancel upcoming reservations that were booked before June 15 – even though many of these hosts are actively engaged in the registration process or awaiting their license.”

Not only were hosts and guests caught off guard, so was Airbnb. The company said that this surprise move was “contrary” to the guidance the Japanese Tourism Agency (JTA) had given them previously, and that the JTA was unwilling to negotiate.

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In the last few days, thousands of travelers have been scrambling to find last-minute lodging for trips they’ve been planning for months, which is already difficult when you consider the traditional Japanese etiquette of booking stays far in advance. Fortunately, Airbnb is offering stranded travelers some vouchers for the full cost of their trip (and then some), 24/7 support, and other benefits for the inconvenience. They’re also able to get assistance from the Japan Travel Bureau to help find new accommodations.

But these new private lodging regulations are likely going to affect Airbnb well after the month of June. Japan’s Nikkei newspaper noted that Airbnb had around 62,000 listings in Japan at the beginning of the year, but now the number has plummeted to only 13,800—nearly an 80% decrease. Some of those listings will return as hosts complete their registration for new licenses, but many won’t. Hosts are concerned the new regulations will drive potential guests away, or make it too hard to make money.

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One of the new laws, for example, says hosts can only rent out their private homes for 180 days out of the year. If a host had purchased a home specifically to rent out year-round, this law potentially cuts their yearly revenue in half, and certainly deters would-be renters from pursuing such a venture. Takuya Ichikawa, senior researcher of the Daiwa Institute of Research, tells Japan Times that the minpaku market is expected to shrink in the short term, and that nonprofessional renters are going to have to give up rentals—which defeats the purpose of a “sharing economy” business like Airbnb.

But all of this is for the best, says Nobuhiko Hohokabe, an official at the JTA. According to Hohokabe, setting steady rules like these will help expand a healthy minpaku business that ensures the safety and security of users. And more users are on their way. Visitors to Japan have been surging in numbers the last few years, and the JTA expect a whopping 40 million foreign visitors by 2020 when the Tokyo Olympics take place.

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The current problems, as frustrating as they may be, are supposedly just growing pains. There may be 80% fewer rentals now, but that number will hopefully be closer to only 20 or 30% fewer over the next few months. This “adjustment period” is necessary for the long-term potential of the Japanese market, says Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb cofounder and CSO. He says the company has no plans of giving up on the country, especially with the upcoming Olympics:

“…there’s an expectation there’ll be an additional 12 million visitors. To accommodate all of those visitors, they simply won’t be able to build enough hotels. There’s going to need to be a diversity of options. Japan has 8 million vacant homes and that is a wasted asset, so we think there’s huge potential for those homes to be used productively to accommodate guests and also for local people to participate in this global tourism industry…”

So what’s a traveler to do? Is your future trip to Japan ruined? No way! First, expect finding an Airbnb in Japan to be difficult for the next year or so. It’s illegal for hosts to operate until they get registered and that will take some time. Even then, expect fewer listings overall since many homeowners will decide short-term rentals aren’t worth the hassle anymore.

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That said, check out other affordable options for lodging, like capsule hotels, manga cafes, night buses, business hotels, and more. They give you a lot of bang for your buck and make a budget trip to Japan more than feasible. Who knows? You might even be able to afford a night or two at a traditional ryokan if you save enough.

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Airbnb lets hosts offer their homes for future emergencies

June 9, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Airbnb hosts have long had the opportunity to offer free housing during emergencies. What about making yourself available ahead of time? If you live in the right area, you’re set. The home rental service is launching a pilot program that will let San Jose residents put themselves on a standby list before there’s even a hint of a crisis. The move should speed up the community’s response in the event of a crisis, ensuring that stranded people don’t have to wait for shelters over their heads.

The test run will also include in-person preparedness recruiting and training as well as a “new operational protocol” for emergencies that includes management teams. The pilot is poised to expand to other cities after the San Jose launch.

There’s a strong incentive to do this: it builds good will at a time when some cities are still giving Airbnb the cold shoulder. At the same time, there’s no question this could be useful during earthquakes or other scenarios where there may be an urgent need for places to stay.

Tech News

Airbnb pulls over 48,000 rentals in Japan following recent law

June 8, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re planning to stay at an Airbnb rental in Japan in the near future, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Airbnb has removed about 48,200 rentals (about 78 percent of those in the country) after the Japanese government ordered home sharing companies to pull any rentals booked before June 15th that didn’t have license numbers issued under a recent law regulating home-based accommodations. This wouldn’t be such an issue if it weren’t that the June 1st order was “contrary” to previous guidance from the Japanese Tourism Agency, Airbnb said — and officials didn’t appear to care that “many” of the hosts were already registering or waiting for their licenses.

Airbnb specifically took down any reservation slated for arrivals between June 15th and June 19th, and warned that it would automatically cancel any future reservations if if they don’t have a license 10 days before guests are due to appear. As compensation, the company created a $10 million fund to cover expenses for guests affected by the cancellations, including both new accommodations and related costs like flight change fees. It also promised travelers full refunds, coupons worth “at least” the full value of the cancelled bookings and $100 each toward Airbnb Experiences. If you’re one of those who qualifies, you should get your compensation in two to four weeks.

The law itself is generally considered positive. It gives people permission to offer rentals for up to 180 days where the previous approach required that they either secure a hotel permit or operate in a special economic zone. The national-level law is looser than in some municipalities, many of which either bar rentals in residential areas or only allow them for a shorter period of time. It’s just that the government is suddenly enforcing the rules in a stricter fashion.