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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.

___________________________________________

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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What the latest Bank of Canada rate hike means for inflation, consumers

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By Tara Deschamps

The Bank of Canada hiked its key policy rate by half a percentage point to 4.25 per cent — the highest it’s been since January 2008 — on Wednesday in its final rate decision of a year that has been marked by stubbornly high inflation and rapidly increasing interest rates.

The bank, which has made a steady succession of large hikes over the course of the year, is widely believed to be nearing an end to the increases.

In announcing the rate hike Wednesday, the bank said it will consider whether the rate “needs to rise further to bring supply and demand back into balance and return inflation to target.”

Here’s a look at what the rate means, how analysts are interpreting it and what it could mean for consumers.

What is the key policy rate and what does it do?

The key policy rate, also known as the target for the overnight rate, is how much interest the Bank of Canada wants commercial banks to charge when lending each other money overnight to settle daily balances.

Knowing how much it costs to lend money, or deposit it with the central bank, helps set the interest rates charged on things like loans and mortgages.

Lowering the rate generally makes borrowing money more affordable, while raising it makes such activities more expensive.

Why is the bank using the rate to target inflation?

Inflation is a measure of how much prices of goods and services are rising or falling. High inflation is a sign of an economy that’s overheating.

Canada’s annual inflation rate reached a peak of 8.1 per cent in June, the highest level in four decades.

It has eased since then, reaching 6.9 per cent in September, but didn’t budge in October. And shoppers have seen higher prices for common expenses like groceries. Grocery prices have been rising at the fastest pace in decades and were 11 per cent higher in October than they were a year ago.

Economists and the central bank want to see a further easing, which is why interest rates have been rising so quickly in the hope of cooling consumer spending patterns.

“Inflation is still too high and short-term inflation expectations remain elevated,” the bank said in its announcement. “The longer that consumers and businesses expect inflation to be above the target, the greater the risk that elevated inflation becomes entrenched.”

What does this mean for my mortgage?

Mortgage rates tend to increase or decrease in tandem with interest rates.

When Canadians buy homes there are two kinds of mortgages they can select — fixed rate or variable. Fixed-rate mortgages allow borrowers to lock in the interest rate they will pay for a set amount of time, while variable-rate mortgages can fluctuate.

Allison Van Rooijen, vice-president of consumer credit at Meridian Credit Unit, estimates the rate hike Wednesday will bump payments on a $450,000 variable-rate mortgage on a 25-year amortization up another $130 or so every month. Since the beginning of 2022, rising rates have amounted to roughly $1,000 more per month since the beginning of 2022.

“Because of the high cost of housing in Canada and years of low borrowing rates, Canadians are carrying record-levels of debt on mortgages and lines of credit, so it’s really important that people go through their expenses and look to scale back discretionary spending where they can,” she said in an email.

She recommends people double down on efforts to pay off debt with higher interest rates as much as possible and if they are running into trouble making payments, discuss whether switching to another format of mortgage is right for them.

Does this mean interest rates will stop rising soon?

Shortly after the announcement, many economists predicted the bank isn’t done with hikes yet, even though the language in the statement signalled the possibility of holding steady at 4.25 per cent.

BMO Capital Markets chief economist Douglas Porter said a further hike of about 25 basis points is likely still to come because he’s concerned about the “stickiness of underlying inflation.”

James Orlando of TD Economics agreed. He expects the bank will deliver its final rate hike for the foreseeable future in January, bringing the measure to 4.5 per cent.

“We don’t think the Bank of Canada is done yet, but it is quickly approaching the end of its hiking cycle,” he wrote in a note to investors.

“As all Canadians know, the rapid rate hikes over 2022 have caused a dramatic adjustment in the real estate market, and we are starting to see this in consumer spending data. We expect this to continue to weigh on the economy over 2023 as the lagged effects of past hikes filter through.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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Experts raise concerns as Nigeria limits cash withdrawals

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By Chinedu Asadu in Abuja

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Experts on Wednesday raised concerns over a new policy announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria that heavily limits withdrawals of money in a push for a cashless economy.

The monetary policy, which applies to ATMs, banks and cash back from purchases, follows the launch of the West African nation’s newly designed currency notes to control the money supply.

The central bank limited weekly over-the-counter cash withdrawals to 100,000 naira ($225) for individuals and 500,000 naira ($1,124) for corporations, with a processing fee required to access more.

When the policy takes effect in Jan. 9, ATMs will no longer dispense Nigeria’s high denominations of 1,000 naira ($2.25) and 500 naira ($1.10) while withdrawals from ATMs and point-of-sale terminals also will be limited to 20,000 naira ($45) daily.

“In compelling circumstances, not exceeding once a month, where cash withdrawals above the prescribed limits are required for legitimate purposes, such cash withdrawals shall not exceed 5,000,000 naira ($11,236) and 10,000,000 naira ($22,471) for individuals and corporations, respectively,” said Haruna Mustafa, the bank’s director of banking supervision.

Policymakers say the withdrawal limits and recent monetary initiatives from the central bank would bring more people into the banking system and curb currency hoarding, illicit flows and inflation.

But analysts worry that with digital payments often unreliable in Nigeria, the initiative could hurt daily transactions that people and businesses make.

“The policy is intended to cause discomfort, to move you from cash to cashless because they (the central bank) have said they want to make it uncomfortable and expensive for you to hold cash,” economic analyst Kalu Aja said.

“That is a positive for the CBN (because) the more discomforting they are able to achieve, the more people can move,” Aja said.

In Nigeria, the majority of people work in the informal sector — mainly activities outside of the legal framework and government regulation such as farming, street and market trade, and public transport. The economy is heavily dependent on this sector, and cash is usually preferred for transactions because many lack bank accounts.

Only 45% of adults in Nigeria have accounts with regulated financial institutions, according to the World Bank. In the absence of bank accounts, point-of-sale terminals have emerged as one of the fastest-growing areas of financial inclusion in the country.

Through the withdrawal limits, the central bank is “directly attacking” such agency banking services and “people will essentially begin to hoard their money,” said Tunde Ajileye, a partner at Lagos–based SBM Intelligence firm.

“It is not going to drive people to start to try doing electronic transactions. On the contrary, it is going to move people away from the financial institutions,” he said.

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