Accommodation safeguards urged in London amid ‘irresistible’ move to sharing economy

By Travolution
By Travolution
October 28, 2014 02:20 PM GMT

The government is being urged to ensure safeguards are in place if 30-year-old rules are relaxed covering the rental of private accommodation in London.

A deregulation bill aims to overhaul out-of-date regulation which requires property owners in the capital to seek planning approval prior to repurposing residential homes to sell accommodation on a night-by-night basis.

The Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (Asap) has written to peers planning to debate the bill tomorrow (Tuesday), cautioning the government against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

Asap managing director James Foice said:“The government must also ensure that safeguards – for example compliance, health and safety and insurance – are in place to give customers the protection they need.”

He admitted that “seismic changes” in the accommodation industry - in particular the rise of sharing economy companies such as Airbnb - are driven by changing customer demand and the growth of digital technology.

“We cannot resist these changes and go back to the past, but instead embrace them and offer visitors to London the widest possible range of accommodation choices,” said Foice.

He cited the Asap quality assessment initiative as a means of ensuring customers know exactly what it is they are buying.

“One potential risk of deregulation is that customers cannot guarantee that they’ll get what they see on a website, not just facilities and furniture, but also health and safety and insurance.” Foice said.

“Our quality assessment initiative provides the protection customers need and require when they book a serviced apartment.”

He described serviced apartments as one of the fastest growing sectors within the hospitality industry, not just among business travellers, but increasingly families and tourists looking for alternatives to hotels.

“Our sector is worth £500 million of annual revenue, the same size as the entire sharing economy in the UK, and we are expecting serviced apartment stock in London to reach 14,000 units by this time next year,” Foice said.

“We strongly welcome government plans to reform the rules, but politicians need to carefully think through the consequences, and make sure customers get the protection they need.”

He added: “It’s clear that political imperatives are driving government action, most especially the need for more housing in London. Housing in the capital is a political hot potato, and the bill has been framed to ensure an outcome whereby there is more housing available for purchase.”

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