Wed | Dec 2, 2020

Letter of the Day | Airbnb and neighbours’ rights

Published:Thursday | July 4, 2019 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I have read with interest the recent comments of JHTA President Omar Robinson on the Airbnb industry in Jamaica. While his focus was on taxation, my own concern is with the regulations, particularly the impact on neighbours and communities.

There is significant, documented evidence that the impact of Airbnb properties on the communities in which they operate can be very negative, to the point where many cities have instituted restrictive ordinances. The negative effects include the driving out of long-term tenants from their homes and communities because landlords can make more money with Airbnb, which contributes to the housing crisis in some places, and the disruptive behaviour of some Airbnb guests.

There are many documented instances, all over the globe, of Airbnb listings being used as venues for parties and, as is to be expected, even for illegal activities or otherwise antisocial behaviour, all of this to the detriment of neighbours. Such problems appear to occur primarily when an entire property is rented out and the owner/operator does not live on the premises, and therefore does not suffer the inconveniences. Airbnb operations also do not have the security provisions that hotels would have to monitor the property and to intervene with unruly guests.

Also, information gathering about guests appears to be lax, so operators may not even know who or what they bring on to their property.

I know of what I speak, as I am the immediate neighbour of a recently opened Airbnb facility, which involves the rental of an entire dwelling house that is owned by someone who lives outside of Jamaica. In the less than two months that the guest house has been active, my life has turned into a living hell, with near-constant loud noise, partying, vulgar behaviour, and a significant loss of privacy. Complaints and protests to the owner, his representatives and some of the guests have been to no avail, and I have already had to call the police. It has now reached a point whereby I am considering selling my home, even though it is located in an area which is zoned for residential purposes only, and not as a ‘party town.’”

REGULATIONS NEEDED

I am all for encouraging entrepreneurship – and the basic principle of the home-stay industry is not a bad one, as long as guests are safely and appropriately housed, and as long as the rights and welfare of the communities in which such businesses are set up are observed.

Unless there is better regulations and monitoring by the relevant authorities, and if my experience is anything to go by, I fear that the Airbnb industry in Jamaica is at risk of joining the coaster buses on Constant Spring as the epitome of the ‘eat a food’ mentality, to the detriment of local residents.

‘Frustrated with AirBnB’