Don’t rent my house through Airbnb and don’t arrive in a Uber car

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I have decided to rent out the house in Spain when it is not in use by friends and family: it would be nice to see a small tiddler size cheque or two swimming bravely upstream against the flow of utility bills and taxes consequent upon being lucky enough to own property.

I do not believe that the results will entitle me to proclaim myself a ‘rentier’….for that I would need to be profiting from the sort of U.K. government tax hand outs to ‘buy to let’ landlords that are not classed as benefits  in that they are much more lucrative than the pittances begrudgingly paid out to those in genuine need of help….but it will give me the opportunity to get to grips with the Spanish tax codes to occupy my mind now that the Great British Bake Off has finished.

I enjoyed the French tax codes…who would have thought that investing in racehorses would give rise to tax deductions…and Costa Rica’s lot is equally fascinating: currently the tax on incorporated associations has been in abeyance since the Constitutional Court sniffed at the procedure used to pass the legislation and as the National Assembly cannot manage to run a whelk stall let alone a country there the matter lies still.

I will – with much use of bad language – put up a Facebook page for the house.

I will use word of mouth via friends and family.

I will list the house with a niche rental company – one that deals with the area and which puts clients directly in touch with me.

I will not be using Airbnb.

Or, come to that, Owners Direct.

Or Tripadvisor….

Why not? They are the major players….their ads come up top of the list on Google when you are thinking of booking a house for your holidays….they would give me much more publicity.

Indeed they would…but at a price both to me and to the potential client.

These sites are platforms which suck blood from both client and owner: they take commission from both sides and increasingly cut down the contact between both parties.

Airbnb, in particular, regard the property owners signed up with them as sheep to the slaughter.

You, as a client, are delighted that you can cancel at the last minute if something goes awry at home: the rental owner is not…how to fill a vacancy at the last minute for a period where he may have turned down other potential bookings?

Or the client has booked for a week and  decides to move on after two days – not from any fault with the property but just because the spirit so moves him. According to Airbnb who are trialing this, the owner must refund the five outstanding days –   with no chance of another booking to fill the gap.

I used to rent out holiday houses in France years ago: I paid for an advertisement in a niche agency and the clients contacted me directly. They knew exactly what was on offer and I knew exactly what they were seeking: the contract was between ourselves.

It was, on the whole, great fun – with a few notable exceptions – and we are still in contact with a number of people who came as clients and left as friends, but that depended on the personal link between us, all trying to make the much anticipated holiday as good as it could be.

These booking platforms are doing their best to rupture that link: to them, the property is an item upon which to make money from both ends…they have not the slightest interest in making the holiday a success.

Booking platforms seem to be the new thing: you want a cleaner? You ring a platform and some poor sod arrives, whose payment depends on how much the platform milches you for and how much it takes for itself.

Some of these platforms even have their desperate non employees bidding each other down for work…

Non employees: no job security…no sick pay, no holiday pay…provide your own materials…

What sort of society have we become to tolerate this?

Uber is a prime example of the exploitative platform.

In Costa Rica they proclaim that they do not provide transportation services…in order to evade the law which regulates said services. Explain to me how contacting a platform to obtain a taxi is not transportation services.

Car owners sign up with them…all is hunky dory.

As it will be until Uber have enough of a presence in the market to reduce the rates paid by the clients and increase the commission paid to Uber by the drivers – as they have done elsewhere.

Drivers who have to maintain their cars at their own expense….

Please, avoid the platforms.

Make contact with real people.

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45 thoughts on “Don’t rent my house through Airbnb and don’t arrive in a Uber car”

  1. Indeed. It’s about 40 years since I dealt with any holiday rental agency (I lived in London then) and for domestic holidays, I used some company whose name I forget, but some S.C. and B and B holidays, who put out a cheaply printed booklet, listing accommodation by county. Brilliant! Well, the places I booked were. Some we used more than once. And I booked my Italian villa through a firm called Villas Italia.If they are still going they would be worth checking.
    But, as I say, that was a long time ago and these days PROFIT is the god.

  2. I remember the pre internet days when you went to the French Tourist Office in Piccadilly and chose your gite from the card index….the staff then ‘phoned the owners on your behalf and arranged everything.

  3. I agree. It amazes me that Uber can get away with arguing that they are not a taxi company. And though I have used Airbnb I have stopped. There is plenty of client contact, sometimes too much. But I also have the feeling that they basically see the owners as cash cows. There is the income from the rentals, of course, but they also have these training sessions, for which owners pay, etc. Unless you have multiple units, why would you sign up for that? And if you do have multiple units, the whole “sharing economy” concept goes out the window. Aren’t you running something more like a hotel? And then, shouldn’t you be subject to tourist taxes, required to hire unionized cleaning ladies, etc.? There is an essential dishonesty in how these companies operate. Whether you contact the service provider by using an app or by walking to a cab stand or a check-in desk, it’s still the same basic service.

    I don’t know. I got out of the rental business. I’ll think long and hard before I get back in again. But, well, if you could let us know what agency you do use….

    1. Owners Direct used to be just that…owners advertised with them and potential clients made contact direct.
      Then it sold out to Expedia: none of the owners whose properties made up the value of the business saw a penny, of course and they now find that, quite apart from having no contact with the clients, if they do not sign up for all the expensive bells and whistles the new OD is quite likely to label them as not safe to do business with!

      When I am organised – own website, FB page – then i shall advertise with Spain Holidays, a company with real people running it. Furthermore they require proof that owners are who they say they are and that they have all the appropriate licences to operate.

  4. We’re with Gites de France but we don’t use their booking service, for the reasons you give above : if someone is planning a family party or the like we need to exchange multiple e-mails to understand what they need.

    1. Yes, with your operation it’s really important to get the details right.
      When we were operating in France I used Chez Nous until they became too expensive, by which time we were working on the word of mouth system.

  5. I agree with every word you say and include a further thing that incenses me …. the review. My number three daughter worked for a while for an Oxford based company called ‘Holiday Lettings’ now part of TripAdvisor (they were swallowed up in a mighty gallolop as all little minnows seem to be by the bluddy sharks that rule in every sector). She had a little portfolio of owners and was their advice line. Daily she would have customers in tears because they had received a nasty review. Not simply bad but downright nasty. Just because the person could. Everything is reviewed by amateurs now and its an open invitation for people to be spiteful presumably making them feel some sort of testicular fortitude because they are protected by anonymity. My only experience of AirBnB came in the summer when my husband and I took youngest daughter to New York for an overnight. Everything we could remotely afford was booked and we resorted, kicking and screaming to using the Devil’s Platform. The flat was all we needed and we were the first people through the door – a young couple subletting on the back of having their first child. It wasn’t perfect but it did us and they were charming. I would rather have just paid them cash. They clearly needed it. I won’t even get started on the disgrace that is the buy-to-let industry n the UK. My blood pressure won/t stand it. By the way we stayed recently in Vermont (again the first people through the door of a delightful couple’s cottage which we found on page 236 of Google (I exaggerate, it was about page 6 I think) through relentless and stoic searching and a resolute refusal to use a platform ever again. They have a B and B in their farmhouse and have recently added a log cabin self catering which is what we did. They are listed on some or other platform but we dealt direct. I would urge all owners to take that route and all holiday makers to remember that direct contact means you are so much more likely to find what. You are looking for. Communication should not be an anonymous process where we all hide in the shadows and never actually even know who the other person is ….

    1. Ah yes…the reviews!
      I have seen cases where people try to blackmail owners with the threat of a bad review in order to obtain an almost free holiday….and the sharks who run the market do nothing about it.
      The contact is all important, not just so that the clients have a good holiday but so that the owner has some idea of the people who will be using their property.

      1. Precisely – both sides have rights and should be protected. But the sharks care not about either side in reality. They prey on the providers and cow-tow to the users because they want them to keep buying and lining their dubious pockets.

  6. Sounds a great idea. Where is it?

    We often look for hotels on Trip Advisor and then book directly through the hotel. I don’t think we’ve ever used AirBnB.

    I’m thinking of buying a studio in Montpellier and letting it out, but after reading your post, I’m wondering if the hassle is worth it.

  7. Money grabbing is a good Conservative principle which takes no care for ‘service’ or consideration of individuals. I suspect UBER and those agencies will be getting knighthoods and Peerages at the next round of handouts.
    I wonder if David Cameron has shares there…?

  8. Yes, the Uber claim had me scratching my head…
    If the house washes its face so that general running costs are covered I’ll be happy.
    The area is stunning and if people must go to the seaside then it is a forty minute drive to some quiet resorts with beautiful beaches.

  9. . . you’ve nailed pretty much everything that is wrong with these ‘platforms’. The social destruction being wrought in cities, towns and villages that have anything going for them by way of locals by the likes of AirBnB is catastrophic! May Ploutos smile on you and line your coffers – modestly, of course!

    1. Don’t worry about me becoming rich…the Spanish taxman will have his hand extended to prevent that risk…
      What gets my goat is the PR campaigns for these platforms…they are about ‘sharing’….
      No they are not. They are about exploitation.

  10. Until this year most of our business came from people who’ve found our reviews on TripAdvisor. But that’s the extent of our involvement with TA. There is no way we would allow people to book our tours via TA. That is because you would have to do it through Viator, which TA own (which doesn’t seem to stop them claiming they are an independent review site…). Even if we wanted to we couldn’t anyway. Viator have no facility for listing custom designed tours. You can only do a cookie cutter tour through Viator — one that runs every day in the same format.

    I am actually listed with a guiding platform, who take 20%. However, they are small and I deal with a person and we can negotiate things. They offer me a service which includes emergency phone numbers and insurance, and if necessary a mediation service if there is a problem between me and my client (I’ve never had to use any of this, but I’m glad it’s there). Before they would list me they spoke to me on the phone and checked out my references. They keep up to speed with what the legal requirements of the guiding business is. I was one of their first listed guides. This year without the clients who found me via this platform I would not have survived. Fewer and fewer clients are finding us through TA. Ironically, those who do find us through TA pay less because we don’t pay them a commission. Luckily we’ve never had a review rating worse than ‘average’.

    1. Twenty per cent seems a huge chunk…but if it is a niche operation then I suppose they have to make it pay somehow and the services they offer sound good.
      More to the point, they sent you clients!

  11. We have always said never again when it comes to rental but having said that, (as we were transferred), we rented our house in Johannesburg to a young German guy for 3 years, what a pleasure the place was spotless and the garden impeccable when we moved back. The worst of the worst happened the next time with two woman, I cried when we returned and that was when we said definitely never again.
    I mentioned to N that you said there is a tax deduction if he invested in a race horse -he said he will rush out and get half a dozen :-)))) We did get a tax reduction this year on the garden company who came in and cut our hedges! I wonder why I have been battling with them for them last 10 years!! Good luck. Hope you both have a great weekend Diane

    1. We had the tenants from hell when we let the house in France…it was not just what it cost to have it put right, but the feeling of violation….

      At least with a holiday let they have only fifteen days to do their worst…and, to be fair, all but a tiny minority of those who booked our holiday houses were super guests.

      Yes, grab those horses whi8le you can….!

      I’ve been enjoying your trip to the U..S. A. – busy bees weren’t you!

      1. It was a very busy holiday and still have to catch up with the rest of it. RSA at the end of January 🙂

  12. I know in my state here in the US Uber flexed considerable political muscle through donations to just about every sitting legislator. For a company that publicly promotes itself as a “free market” alternative to taxis, that rubbed me the wrong way and told me all I needed to know about the company’s mentality. I suspect Uber has used this same tactic across the rest of the nation and in other parts of the world.

    I’ve never used AirBnB but I, for one, can’t imagine renting out my own home to people I’m not thoroughly familiar with. Seems like throwing out the welcome mat for the irresponsible and ill-bred.

    1. Here they promised to open a call centre…I have no idea of how many legislators are running about on free Uber rides…
      When we were renting out places in France it was the to and fro of of e mails which let both parties get to know each other a little…

  13. You may have noticed that an English employment tribunal has rejected the Uber claim that their taxi drivers are self-employed – a transparently bogus claim since Uber controls every aspect of their working lives and quite clearly the drivers are working for Uber and not the other way round. Uber have therefore been ordered to treat their drivers as regular employees and give them holiday leave, sick leave etc. Of course Uber will appeal but I can’t see how they can possibly succeed.

    1. Not as clear as it might seem.
      A lot depends on how the Employment Appeals Tribunal regard which of the parties has ‘control’ of the work, the mutuality of obligations between the parties and the intention of the parties…also whether Uber – in this case – is the only client of the driver…
      The reality of the situation is obvious to all…but Uber can afford to keep it going on the legal front while mobilising anti union pressure among the drivers…
      Cynically, I suppose it all depends on how much of a bribe Uber has to pay HM Revenue and Customs to be treated like Amazon, etc…

  14. Quite a few places in our village are on AirBnB, so I confess to thinking about it for casa chica. I also confess to thinking about making casa chica habitable …
    Loathe FB but sounds a good idea 😦
    We rented the villa from hell back in 2001 through personal contact and emails … the owner was later prosecuted after two men and most of their dogs died from CO poisoning (dodgy water heater).
    In the UK we rented our properties using estate agents. Useless at most things, ie detail, apart from getting clients. Getting money from clients wasn’t always their forte.
    Good luck. Keep us posted 🙂

  15. Good for you…and can I just say I’d rent that lovely home pictured in a second?! Heck, I might even be inclined to make an offer on it!! AirBnb seems to take anyone who’s breathing with a fat check and put them in someone’s home. Granted, housing costs are astronomical in my part of town and people are getting on the gravy train but the unintended consequences of having goodness knows who in your home seems strictly relating to gaming the money stream and greed and as impersonal as it gets. Best of luck! I hope someone wonderful rents it, savors it and appreciate it. And provides a bit of cash to you in the interim.

  16. Good luck with the renting, Helen. It looks like a wonderful property. Don’t forget to ask all your FB friends to like and share your page once you’ve finished it.

    I’ve never used either Airbnb or Uber and don’t plan too. Like you I dislike their modus operandi intensely.My only experience of providing holiday rentals was when we converted the barn at the old house into a cottage and I rented it out for a few summers. I advertised entirely through church newspapers and magazines and, apart from one or two notable exceptions, we had wonderful clients, some of whom we are still in touch with 16 years after last renting it out.

    1. Like you, we mostly had very pleasant people – and I hope that things will not change in that respect!
      Thank you for the tip about the FB page: i would never have thought of that!

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