Airbnb.com, a popular travel site that allows home-owners and apartment renters to sublet or rent out their residences to people from around the world, has been a hot topic of controversy lately. Although the creators of the site, Brian Chesky (CEO) and Joe Gebbia (co-founder), started the company as a means to meet the new travel needs and demands of Generation-Y following the economic crisis of 2008, the site has evolved over time into a business that many view as detrimental to renters.
The site, which basically allows an individual to rent out a person’s home or apartment the way that they would a room at a hotel or at a bed and breakfast (hence the name- air’bnb’), started out as a friendly way to go about making both profit and friends as a result of subletting a residence or renting out a secondary home to vacationing or traveling guests. In the past few years, the site has come under scrutiny for various legal reasons ranging from the dangers of renting out an apartment to strangers in a building that is shared with several other tenants, to the ways in which the site can even hurt the housing/renting market in major cities. After a series of billboard and subway advertisements showcased the many ways in which the company has allegedly helped improve the lives of New Yorkers, a wave of backlash resulted from New Yorkers who didn’t see Airbnb.com as the heaven-send the ads claimed it to be. While the ads featured New Yorkers speaking praises about the wonders of the site for helping to provide them with an additional income or helping them afford their ever increasing rent, many New Yorkers retaliated by defacing the posters, claiming that the company does NOT necessarily help them.
One major argument is that the site motivates landlords and building owners to turn their apartment complexes from rentals that are carried out year-to-year by lease, into their own, mini hotels. Seeing the profit that tenants can make from renting out their apartments for a few nights for upwards of several hundred dollars, many building owners have caught onto the idea that by converting their apartment buildings into rentals that occur on a night-to-night basis, they can make major profit. This clearly is not good for the millions of New Yorkers whom already shell out tons of money every month for rental apartments and would have to find other affordable housing, were their landlords to convert their own apartment buildings.
On the other hand, as the posters argue, subletting or occasionally renting out their apartments to others, in return for profit, is the only way that some New Yorkers are currently even able to afford their rent. The site is great for those looking for an escape or vacation in a comfortable and private residence far from their own home. The site makes it easy to browse various options and amenities and features of apartments and houses from owners willing to rent them out all across the world. Based on my personal experience, one can get a way better price and a much more comfortable and luxurious accommodation by choosing to rent via airbnb.com versus booking a hotel room. Who wouldn’t opt for a three-bedroom house on a private piece of land (with a hot tub!) instead of a stuffy, hotel room with neighbors separated by walls and a communal, heated swimming pool shared with every other guest?! Airbnb.com is a great way go when traveling or vacationing for pleasure or with a large party.
Although I am an avid fan of using the site to rent property elsewhere, like many others, I am reluctant to rent out my own apartment because of the occasional horror story that arises when someone renting decides to throw a major party and trashes the place, or some other unspeakable happening occurs. Although the thought of making profit off of the place I currently rent is appealing, I also have enough respect for the neighbors in my complex that I wouldn’t want to jeopardize them either. I have seen first hand many times upon entering my own building, a strange couple from another country with suitcases in tow, waiting eagerly for someone to buzz them in downstairs. Many building owners and superintendents have actually instituted clauses in tenants leases to prevent them from renting out their apartments on sites like airbnb.com too. It is presumed that one pays top-dollar to live in a secure, camera-monitored buildings next to tenants that they know (or at least see on a regular basis) for a good reason. No one wants strangers constantly moving in and out of the building because than the chances of burglary, partying, or other shady things happening is likely to increase.
Although one can argue the many pros and cons of airbnb.com, I stand on the pro-side. I love that I am able to rent a villa in Tuscany for a fraction of the price of a hotel, or rent a quick cottage upstate on a private piece of land versus staying in a local bed and breakfast. However, for now, I also err on the side of keeping my own apartment for myself, despite the temptation to make some extra income by renting it out.
– Kelsey Lieb for The Untitled Magazine