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Airbnb hosts are sick of Airbnb, too

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6 minute read

By Sam Kemmis Of Nerdwallet

Disgruntled Airbnb guests are taking to Twitter and TikTok to vent about everything from cleaning fees to misleading listings. But they aren’t the only ones with complaints: Airbnb hosts themselves have become increasingly disillusioned with the platform and its disrespectful guests.

On message boards and Facebook groups, hosts are sharing their own challenges and horror stories. One host claimed that a group of guests was unwilling to leave the property despite receiving a full refund from Airbnb.

“I went to the apartment to check what was going on, and I was in shock to discover that the tenants were still in the apartment,” the host wrote on the website AirbnbHell. “They immediately called the police on me and I was kicked out of my own apartment by a team of the police — a complete shock.”

While these anecdotes might seem like the natural byproduct of the largely unregulated short-term rental industry, they speak to larger trends impacting hosts. A 2021 report from Bloomberg detailed how Airbnb’s secretive crisis team spends millions of dollars to cover up crimes and other publicity nightmares in its listings. And the platform recently launched “anti-party technology ” in an effort to defray hosts’ frustrations with large, destructive gatherings.

These issues raise the question: Is Airbnb itself the problem — or are the guests?

SILLY STRING AND FOUL ODORS

In May of this year, Airbnb launched a new “AirCover” protection plan for guests and hosts . It promises quick reimbursement for hosts and up to $1 million in damage protection. And while many hosts consider this policy generous, it still comes with plenty of gray areas.

Emily Muskin Rathner , a digital marketing professional living in Cleveland, began renting her house on Airbnb in August 2021. She says that hosting has been a pleasant and profitable enterprise overall, but a few guests have caused major problems, including a family that rented the house this June.

“They left the house a mess,” she says. “There was human feces on our laundry. They sprayed Silly String all over the place. I don’t care about Silly String, but can you pick it up? It left stains, oddly.”

Muskin Rathner received reimbursement from Airbnb for most of her claims. But some damage, such as nail polish smeared on the bathroom tile, didn’t qualify for reimbursement because she wasn’t able to provide documentation for the cost of the tile. And then there was the smell.

“It really, really stunk. The air conditioning had been left off for a week — in June.”

RED TAPE EVERYWHERE

The early days of short-term vacation rentals offered hosts a simple proposition: Rent your home and earn some extra money. Yet as the industry has matured, it’s been met with regulation efforts from local governments.

Cities such as Denver and Portland, Oregon, have been cracking down on unlicensed short-term rentals, levying fines against hosts and requiring expensive permits. These policies allow local governments to collect taxes and regulate problematic behavior, but they add one more layer of complexity for hosts, many of whom have little experience in hospitality.

Furthermore, many local governments place the burden of tax collection on hosts, not Airbnb. A 2022 analysis by the National League of Cities, an advocacy organization composed of city, town and village leaders, estimated that 82% of cities require hosts to remit taxes themselves, while only 5% require the platform to do so on hosts’ behalf.

Hosts must now not only act as full-time customer service agents and hospitality experts, but also navigate local regulations and master convoluted taxation laws.

COMPETITION FROM MANAGEMENT COMPANIES

The romantic notion of home sharing as a means for homeowners to pay their mortgages has given way to management companies inserting themselves and aiming to maximize profits. And small-time hosts can’t keep up with these corporate competitors.

A study of short-term rentals in the U.K. found that the number of listings managed by hosts with a single property dropped from 69% in 2015 to 39% in 2019. And data from the nonprofit Inside Airbnb suggests that only 39.1% of properties in Los Angeles are managed by single-property hosts.

These mega-hosts are able to operate at scale, maximizing efficiency on everything from pricing adjustments to cleaning staff. Single-property hosts can’t keep up, or are unwilling to deal with the hassle, and are being elbowed out of the ecosystem.

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This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sam Kemmis is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]

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Canada’s top five federal contaminated sites to cost taxpayers billions to clean up

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By Emily Blake in Yellowknife

With a cost estimate of $4.38 billion, remediation of the Giant Mine, one of the most contaminated sites in Canada, is also expected to be the most expensive federal environmental cleanup in the country’s history.

The figure, recently approved by the Treasury Board of Canada, spans costs from 2005 until 2038, when active remediation at the former Yellowknife gold mine is anticipated to end. That includes $710 million the federal government said has already been spent, but does not include costs for long-term care and maintenance.

“It doesn’t bother me so much that it’s going to cost $4 billion to clean up Giant Mine. What really bothers me is that the taxpayer is covering that cost,” said David Livingstone, chair of the Giant Mine Oversight Board.

It indicates the federal government failed to ensure private developers provided financial security to remediate sites. He said while that has improved over time, there will likely be more issues in the future.

“We as a society need to get a better handle on what it costs us to support mining industry and oil and gas industry,” he said. “If the numbers suggest that it’s going to cost more to clean up a site than that site generated in revenue to the Crown, we’ve got a problem.”

There are more than 20,000 locations listed in the federal contaminated sites inventory, from dumps and abandoned mines to military operations on federal land.

Environment and Climate Change Canada says that after Giant Mine, the four most expensive cleanups are the Faro Mine in Yukon, the Port Hope Area Initiative in Ontario, Esquimalt Harbour in British Columbia and Yukon’s United Keno Hill Mine.

More than $2 billion has been spent on the five sites so far, and it’s anticipated they will cost taxpayers billions more in the coming years. Their final price tags are not yet known.

The most recent numbers from the Treasury Board of Canada indicate more than $707 million has been spent on remediation, care and maintenance at Faro Mine, a former open pit lead-zinc mine. Its remediation project is expected to take 15 years to complete and is currently estimated to cost $1 billion, plus $166 million for the first 10 years of long-term operation and maintenance.

Parsons Inc. was awarded a $108-million contract in February for construction, care and maintenance at Faro Mine until March 2026, with the option to extend the contract for the duration of active remediation. The company said the contract could ultimately span 20 years and exceed $2 billion.

In 2012, Ottawa committed $1.28 billion in funding over 10 years for the cleanup of historical low-level radioactive waste in the municipalities of Port Hope and Port Grandby, Ont. To date more than $722 million has been spent on assessment and remediation.

The Port Grandby Project was completed earlier this year and has moved into long-term monitoring for hundreds of years. The Port Hope cleanup, which started in 2018, will continue into 2030.

The cleanup in the Esquimalt Harbour seabed in Victoria currently has a budget of $162.5 million. Roughly $214 million has already been spent on remediation and assessment. The Department of National Defence said that may include costs before 2015, when the remediation project began.

Cleanup of United Keno Hill Mine, a historical silver, lead and zinc mining property near Yukon’s Keno City, is estimated to cost $125 million, including $79 million during its active reclamation phase. That is expected to begin in 2023 and take five years, followed by a two-year transition phase then long-term monitoring and maintenance.  More than $67 million has been spent on remediation, care and maintenance at the site so far.

Other costly federal sites that have been cleaned up include the Cape Dyer Dew-Line, 21 former radar stations across the Arctic, for $575 million, the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens on Cape Breton Island, N.S., for nearly $398 million, and the 5 Wing Goose Bay air force base in Labrador, for $142.9 million.

The 2022 public accounts state the gross liability for the 2,524 federal contaminated sites where action is required is nearly $10 billion based on site assessments. Of the 3,079 unassessed sites, 1,330 are projected to proceed to remediation with an estimated liability of $256 million.

The federal contaminated sites action plan was established in 2005 with $4.54 billion in funding over 15 years. That was renewed for an additional 15 years, from 2020 to 2034, with a commitment of $1.16 billion for the first five years.

Jamie Kneen with MiningWatch Canada said the contamination from Giant Mine highlights the importance of the planning and assessment process for development projects.

“If you don’t actually do any planning around something, you can end up with a pretty horrible mess,” he said. “In this case, it killed people before they started even capturing the arsenic. We don’t want that to happen anymore.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Saskatchewan government deciding what to do with new revenue from carbon pricing

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By Mickey Djuric in Regina

Saskatchewan is to soon gain control of the carbon pricing charge that shows up on residents’ power bills.

However, Premier Scott Moe and his Saskatchewan Party government are still mulling over how that new revenue should be spent.

Since 2019, a carbon backstop has been placed on Saskatchewan Power Corporation bills to account for its greenhouse gas emissions.

The money has been going to the federal government, but starting in January the money will be staying in the province.

This comes after Saskatchewan successfully applied to have natural gas pipelines and power plants regulated through its own carbon-pricing system, and will take full regulatory control over all large greenhouse gas emitters in the province.

Under the program, Saskatchewan will still have to comply with the federal carbon pricing schedule.

Moe has said his government hasn’t made a decision whether it will return some of that money collected through power bills back to residents.

“It’s fair to say we haven’t made that decision yet,” Moe said Wednesday.

He said a priority for the government is to invest in Saskatchewan’s transition to cleaner power generation.

Moe said he’d like to see some money go toward producing nuclear energy.

Federal government policy aims to reach a net-zero grid by 2035. This is putting pressure on Saskatchewan to transition away from coal and natural gas — power generation it mainly relies on to keep the lights on in the province.

To support a transition to cleaner energy, the modernization of Saskatchewan’s electrical grid will be essential, SaskPower, the province’s Crown electrical utility, said in its 2021-22 report.

“We need to make responsible decisions of how we are making those investments, but we also want to do everything we can to keep power affordable for Saskatchewan residents,” Moe said.

The Opposition New Democrats have taken a similar viewpoint.

NDP Leader Carla Beck said Thursday that she wants to see a plan for the money that involves reliable energy that reduces emissions and doesn’t stick Saskatchewan people with power sources they can’t afford.

“These are huge investments, huge considerations for the future of this province,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2022.

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