Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Short-Term Rentals

Booking Holdings Is Compensating Hosts and Partners for Payments Failure

4 months ago

The problem surfaced in late Summer — Booking.com’s short-term rental hosts in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America cited financial hardships because the company wasn’t paying them for guest stays.

A condo hotel that was listed on Booking.com. Source: Booking.com

CEO Glenn Fogel told financial analysts last week during Booking Holdings’ third quarter earnings call that Booking.com would begin letting partners know that compensation is on the way.

Missed Host Payments

“During the quarter, some of our partners at Booking.com experienced delayed payments due to a planned upgrade to our finance and payment platforms in early July,” Fogel said. “We’ve now cleared the backlog of outstanding payment issues related to the system upgrade. We plan to provide compensation to partners who experienced an extended delay, and we recorded this in our Q3 results. We plan to communicate to all partners who were impacted by these payment delays within the next few days.”

The company won’t specify precisely how much it would be shelling out to hosts as compensation.

A spokesperson said the amount of the payments are “meaningful, not material.”

In-House Payment System Is Strategic Priority

When the reports of missed payments for hosts first surfaced several months ago, the company downplayed the issue.

But in addition to the financial pain it inflicted on hosts, the snafu was an embarrassment to the company because it has been developing its own payments system over the last few years as a strategic imperative.

Pain for Hosts

Fogel discussed the issue with this reporter at Skift Global Forum in September.

Fogel: We did a very, very large change in our backend financial systems. Some things didn’t work so well. You do everything you can to make sure it’s going to be perfect. Wasn’t. Some people didn’t get paid a very, very, very small percentage. But even one person is one too many.

We have two types of customers. We’ve got the travelers and we’ve got the partners. And if we don’t provide good service to them, that’s on us. We screw it up, and there were mistakes. And if you don’t pay a very large company so much, well, it’s not a big deal.

By the way, in our agency business where we get paid by the partner who sends us money afterwards our commission, sometimes we don’t get paid on time either. So 30 days late, 60 days late, 90 days late, and during the pandemic, we didn’t get paid at all. Happens. This is not a pandemic, this is a mistake. And the thing is, for the smaller partners, partners that were really depending on that payment, I just felt so horrible.

Schaal: What kind of redress can you have for them?

Fogel: First thing is get their money as fast as you can, as fast as you can. And I’ll tell you, I get emails and I’ve read them and they are really heartbreaking. You just feel horrible when you do something wrong. And we have fixed it, it’s good now. But I’ll tell you, this is something where I say to the team, and I say that … I spoke out at a town hall for all of our 20 something thousand employees.

And I told them about this. I said, “Look, this is not the way we want to be. We got to do better. We should not ever, ever feel that this is OK.” Well, it’s only a small number of partners. That’s the wrong attitude. It’s always got to be, every partner counts. So the lesson from it was we have to do better.

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb and a Tenant Blocked From Listing an Apartment in a Banned NYC Building

4 months ago

The implementation of New York City’s host registration law last month has enabled one landlord to win a temporary restraining order against both Airbnb and a host from listing a short-term rental in an Upper West Side apartment building that put itself on the Office of Special Enforcement’s banned building list.

An NYC home that was listed on Airbnb years ago. Source: Flickr.com/Pietro and Sylvia https://tinyurl.com/mur8ukak

The Rosenberg & Estis law firm, which represents property manager Canvas Property Group for the building owner, characterized the temporary restraining order it obtained last month as “a precedent-setting victory.”

The two sides are slated to face off over making the temporary restraining order permanent in a New York state court in late October. The plaintiff sued Airbnb and the host, who the law firm stated never lived in the 3-bedroom Columbus Avenue apartment, for damages.

The Real Deal first reported the existence of the lawsuit, adding that a second landlord filed suit, as well.

As of late August, more than 10,000 buildings had applied to the city to be put on a list of buildings where tenants would be barred from offering their apartments as short-term rentals, and major platforms such as Airbnb, Booking.com and Vrbo would be prohibited from displaying them.

Although Airbnb and the city have been at loggerheads for years over New York’s regulations, which ban the bulk of properties that were formerly listed, Airbnb and the city are believed to be now working together on the implementation of the registration law. Airbnb counts on the city’s verification system to flag illegal listings, including those from hosts in buildings where they are barred.

Airbnb had no comment on the lawsuits on Saturday.

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb Squatter Squabble in California Hits Home in NYC Short-Term Rental Crackdown

5 months ago

There have been plenty of headlines in the past few days about a lawsuit against an Airbnb guest in Brentwood, California, who has allegedly overstayed her reservation, which ended on March 19, 2022 —without paying rent for more than a year-and-a half.

A vacation rental that was listed on Vrbo. We show this for illustrative purpose, and not for any connection to the squatter issue. Source: Vrbo

The property owner filed a lawsuit in June, seeking to evict the squatter, who has supposedly performed a somewhat similar caper previously, according to published reports.

Squatter Issue Resonates in NYC

Regardless of the details of this particular case, the issue of squatters and laws in many localities that are designed to protect tenants from abusive landlords, hit home in New York City in light of the new host registration law that became effective September 5.

The New York City host registration law seeks to enforce short-term rental regulations that have existed in the Big Apple for years, but often went unheeded. Among them, owners of one- and two-family homes that are owner-occupied don’t need to register as hosts of their vacation rentals, but the minimum stay would need to be at least 30 days.

That’s exactly when squatter laws come into play. New York State law states that people who live in a property for 30 days become legal tenants, and after that time period it can become a protracted battle to evict guests — even if they are paying nothing for the stay.

This issue is a concern for New York City homeowners, many of whom live in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx, who are seeking to rent out their properties for short- and long-term rentals to help pay mortgages and for extra income.

“Many of our RHOAR (Restore Homeowners Autonomy & Rights) members are concerned about the risk of bringing on a tenant that ultimately doesn’t pay their rent and uses NYC’s laws to delay eviction, which has been a financially ruinous experience for many of RHOAR’s members,” spokesperson Lisa Grossman told Skift a few days before the New York City host registration law became effective.

As of a few days ago, RHOAR has conducted meetings with 15 of 52 New York City council members, looking for an amendment “to allow owner-occupied one- or two-family homes the ability to do short-term rentals,” Grossman said.

In other words, these would be rentals for a night, a weekend, a week — anything fewer than 30 nights.

Dan Driscoll, co-founder and chief operating officer of luxury vacation rental business boutiq, based in Austin, acknowledged that squatters might be a problem in some urban markets, but doesn’t see it as a major problem for the vacation rental sector.

“I am not a lawyer and not qualified to give legal advice, but from my vantage point, I think the horror stories are out there, but I think these are wild outliers and fairly isolated to urban markets with unique tenant laws,” Driscoll said.

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb Increases Efforts to Boost Short-Term Rentals in Multifamily Buildings

1 year ago

Building on initiatives that had mixed results in the past, Airbnb is debuting an Airbnb-Friendly Apartments program to enable long-term renters in multifamily buildings where landlords permit it to list their rooms or apartments on Airbnb.

Sentral Wynwood in Miami participated in Airbnb’s new Airbnb-Friendly Apartments Program. Source: Airbnb

For both guests and hosts, one of the things the program aims to do is avoid the all-too-frequent situation where guests have to pretend they are part of the host’s visiting family or a close friend because the building doesn’t allow Airbnb rentals.

The newest incarnation of the program enables long-term renters to browse for multifamily buildings that allow Airbnb short-term rentals, get in touch with the management of the building, and, like other first-time hosts, get access to experienced hosts to help with starting out on Airbnb and listing their apartments.

“Renters interested in hosting a spare room, or their entire apartment when they’re out of town, can browse more than 175 Airbnb-friendly apartment buildings, subject to availability, in 25+ markets across the U.S., including Houston, Phoenix, and Jacksonville,” Airbnb stated as part of the announcement.

The company added that renters participating in this multifamily building program over three months hosted an average of nine nights per month and earned an average of $900 net of Airbnb and landlord fees.

Airbnb has had issues with some of these sorts of arrangements in the past. Several years ago, for example, Airbnb enabled a Miami-area developer, Niido, to use the Airbnb brand and enable tenants to host short-term rental guests, but other tenants felt blindsided by the arrangement, and Airbnb eventually sued the developer.