Airbnb feelgood factor crimped by $415,000 fines


Just hours after Airbnb polished their sharing and caring image with a pro-refugee ad during yesterday’s Superbowl TV broadcast in America last week, a city council has punched a $415,000 hole in their pitch that they are all about ordinary people letting rooms in their homes.

The dark side of Airbnb – the exploitation by hosts of residential housing for commercial holiday letting – was exposed again last week when Amsterdam city council imposed a record fine of 297,000 Euros on a landlord and agency that breached its strict rules on letting rooms via the internet.

The council said that a digital investigation had revealed that a company called Iamb&b rented out 11 flats in the Kerkstraat to tourists via Airbnb.

Under Amsterdam’s local laws, homeowners can rent out rooms via online sites such as Airbnb for a maximum of 60 days a year and to no more than four people at a time. Only the owner of the property is allowed to list it.

Now both the individual owners of the properties and the agency, Iamb&b, have been ordered to pay almost $19,000 per apartment.

Alderman Laurens Ivens, responsible for the city’s housing, called the agency a ‘prototype for an illegal hotel’ and the large fine was intended as a warning to others.

‘If [the owners] know that homes are being let out too often, or more than four tourists are occupying them, then they share responsibility,’ he said. The owner of Iamb&b says he plans to challenge the fine.

Hours earlier Airbnb’s founders had gone back to their egalitarian roots with a Super Bowl advertisement showing images of people of different colours from a variety of cultures over text that read: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

The ad was shown during one of the most watched and most expensive advertising slots on US television and would have cost up to $6.5 million for 30 seconds.

The Airbnb superbowl ad was intended to highlight the company’s commitment to providing short-term housing for 100,000 refugees, victims of natural disasters and aid workers, over the next five years.

In Australia, Airbnb has an agreement with the Victorian government to provide emergency housing for families who lose their homes in natural disasters like bush fires and floods.

But some observers have questioned the $50 billion global powerhouse’s true motives at a time when they are facing considerable resistance globally, not least in Sydney and Melbourne, to their expansion into residential apartment blocks.

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