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Airbnb hosts hit back: We offer a good service!

Property owners form club to share experiences of rental website that has faced severe criticism

16 April, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Members of the Camden Home Sharing Club: Jasmine Harris, Emma Cullinan, Katrin Wedepohl, Mary Hill, Laura Ward and Silvia Dalfior

THE rise of Airbnb has made headlines recently as a sign of failures in the London property market.

Critics say property owners have used the online rental service to turn their homes into long and short-term holiday lets. Arguments have raged that such services create transient populations in neighbourhoods, take housing stock out of the rented sector, and encourage anti-social behaviour as guests stay for a brief time, make noise and don’t respect the usual, unsaid rules about how to act courteously towards neighbours.

But for many Airbnb has opened up not just a new way of making some extra funds from an empty spare room, but helped them meet a range of people from around the world, reminding them why they love where they live in the first place.

Now a group of Airbnbers, who rent out a single room at a time from their homes, have joined together to form a group called the Camden Home Sharing Club. They meet to share information and support, and also celebrate their neighbourhood, giving each other insider tips to help their guests enjoy the best the place has to offer.

Mary Hill, who lives in Kentish Town and first started letting her spare room during the London Olympics in 2012, said: “It has been fabulous. From the host’s point of view, you have complete control over when people come and stay. You have a website on their platform, saying who you are, about your house and what you can offer.”

Ms Hill enjoys meeting people visiting London from around the world, and says they bring valuable income into the area’s economy. She added: “I have had people come from 15 different countries so far. It’s really interesting, you meet people of all backgrounds and all walks of life.” And she has also had people who have come to visit their relatives who live nearby, but do not have a spare room they can use.

She said: “I have had grandparents-to-be, who need to be in Kentish Town to be close to their family, stay with me.”

Tax rules mean homeowner can earn up to £7,500 before paying tax so many Airbnbers find it’s useful source of added income and, as the Camden group point out, their guests use shops and cafés and boost the area’s economy by doing so.

Laura Ward is a community organiser for the group, and helps people renting out rooms meet each other so they can share their stories and discuss what works for them. She said: “It is about getting hosts together so they can learn and help each other. They can share ideas, share problems, and, by coming to these meetings, they have a direct line to Airbnb that can be really helpful. They get to know each other and do not feel they are letting someone come into their home in isolation.”

Emma Cullinan offers a room that was once used by her children, who are now at university. She said: “We do not have a lot in common with people who are letting out buildings professionally, the lettings managers who do it full-time. And we don’t want to be considered in the same category. We are letting out bedrooms, rather than whole blocks. There has been some negative publicity over people who let out entire properties, and letting out homes they have bought just to do so, but this group shows there is another side to it.”

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