Regulation for peer-to-peer accommodation is being discussed around the world, but data isn’t being used effectively to inform, design and implement it. We are researching how data could be better used to help regulate the peer-to-peer accommodation sector. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Image: AirBnB by Effie Yang, CC BY 2.0

Our initial work has focussed on two areas: mapping regulations around the world, and identifying users and user needs. We are working as openly as possible and sharing what we learn as we go.

The regulatory landscape

We have reviewed 35 regulations in use or proposal around the world (here's a google sheet with the list). Large tourist cities – such as London, Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin – have created new regulations or updated existing ones for the peer-to-peer accommodation sector. But beyond these there has not yet been much activity. AirBnB catches most attention in the debate – both on the side of policy-makers and the general public, which is unsurprising given its share of the market.

The regulations, agreements and proposals we have seen so far have aimed to do one (or more) of the following:

Limit market access: In order to prioritise long lets, governments often seek to limit how, if at all, non-registered private properties can be short let. For example, in London, entire homes may not be short let for more than 90 days in total per year; in New York, short lets of entire homes for less than 30 days are not allowed; and in Berlin, short-letting entire homes is completely prohibited.

Ensure a level playing field: Regulators want to ensure that peer-to-peer accommodation is regulated according to existing laws and rules. In some cases, authorities require that platforms collect tourist taxes, which AirBnB now does in eight countries. In others, landlords on platforms have to comply with existing quality standards for tourist accommodations. For instance, in Barcelona they have to operate air conditioning – just like a hotel or bed & breakfast.

Monitor sector developments: In some cases, such as PortugalLazio (Italy), and Tokyo, landlords have to register their properties before they can be advertised on peer-to-peer platforms.

New business activities in the sector are clearly leading to more data being collected, exchanged, and processed. But so far, we haven’t come across many examples of data and technology being used to deliver new models of regulation. What extra data could be openly published or shared between platforms, regulators, platform users and local communities? Would this help regulators to balance aims such as enabling the growth of the sector and protecting consumers, while also being cheaper, easier and more effective?

Users and user needs

We have started mapping users, including:

  • Peer-to-peer sector: Platforms (including short-term rental sites entering the peer-to-peer market), hosts, guests.
  • Housing sector: Tenants, landlords, housing associations, estate and letting agents, property developers, mortgage, loan and insurance providers.
  • Public sector: Local government, bluelight services, tax services, policymakers.
  • Service providers: Transport, tourism, hospitality, property management. Local communities: People or businesses affected by the peer-to-peer market.

We will be speaking to these groups, and others we have missed, to understand different needs and problems faced that data could help address. Please get in touchif you would like to talk to us.

What you can do

In order to develop and test tools that are useful, we need to work with people across the sector. If you are interested, please:

  • take a look at the open document and let us know what you think
  • get in touch to organise an interview
  • keep an eye out for workshops we are running around the UK in October.

We are focussing the initial research and prototyping in the UK, but we are keen to expand the work to other countries too. We think we will learn that there are different user needs in different contexts. Get in touch with [email protected] if you would like to work with us to do that.