Calls lodged for stricter rules on private holiday lets in Sidmouth

Alistair Handyside presents Angela Blackwell from the Thelma Hulbert Gallery with a tourism award. P

Alistair Handyside presents Angela Blackwell from the Thelma Hulbert Gallery with a tourism award. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref mhh 9352-15-14AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to and click on Photo Orders - Credit: Archant

More needs to be done to ensure people are safe when using private holiday lets in Sidmouth, through websites such as AirBnB.

Those are the words of campaigners calling for action over companies that have terms and conditions that say they cannot guarantee the accommodation is safe or even exists.

Sidmouth Town Council vowed to do all it could to support a change to the system after listening to a presentation from Sidmouth hotelier Jo Watson, of Dukes, and Alistair Handyside, of South West Tourism Alliance. The pair spoke about a campaign calling on the Government to introduce regulations.

Mr Handyside said: “In the old days before online travel agents like AirBnB, if you wanted to advertise a property you had to prove you had public liability insurance, a fire certificate, a gas certificate and that all the electronic appliances had been tested and were safe. Now all you need to do is take a picture on your mobile phone and click upload on the internet.”

Mr Handyside said many people who advertise rooms and properties in this way are breaking the law without realising it. He said people with a domestic insurance policy not only were not insured but were in breach of their mortgage policies, which had to be ‘buy to let’ policy to be legal.

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Mr Handyside said: “People are putting themselves at risk without knowing about it. It is really dangerous. The amount of properties that are not safe are at epidemic proportions.

“The reputational damage to the local economy if someone was to be hurt in a fire in one these properties would be huge.

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“We have been campaigning in London, and the Government is starting to listen.

“We just want it to be safe and legal and for it to be fair for businesses that do pay extra to make sure they are safe. It should all operate on a level playing field.”

An AirBnB spokesman said: “The South West Tourism Alliance represents the interests of hotels, while Airbnb helps spread tourism benefits to local families, communities and businesses in the South West.

“There’s a clear difference between sharing space in your home and running a hotel, and we work with world-leading experts – including the National Fire Chiefs Council, Gas Tag and ROSPA – to promote safe and responsible home sharing.”

This week the company has introduced a new initiative where it will give hosts smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, free of charge, on request _ as well as highlighting to guests where a property does not have alarms. The spokesman said home sharing is subject to clear rules and regulations.

She added: “In the summer, we invited hosts across the county to meet with Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety to learn more about fire safety.

“In the rare event of an incident, we act quickly to support our hosts and guests, including through the Airbnb Host Guarantee and our Host Protection Insurance.

“Airbnb has been awarded the Sharing Economy’s UK TrustSeal. The kitemark is awarded to sharing economy companies that successfully meet a list of Good Practice Principles established by SEUK.

“It is wrong and misleading to suggest all accommodation on Airbnb is subject to the same regulations. There are many different types of accommodation available on Airbnb, including growing numbers of boutique hotels, serviced apartments and traditional B&Bs. Rules are typically proportionate to the level of hosting activity provided, not the platform on which they are listed.

“The typical host in the South West earns £3,400 per year by sharing their space for fewer than three nights per month. For more information on hosts using Airbnb in the South West, see our 2018 UK Insights Report.

“We use sophisticated technologies and behavioural analysis techniques to help prevent and tackle fake listings and bad actors from utilising the platform in the first place.

“Airbnb also holds payment for 24 hours after check in to ensure that if there are any problems where a guest can’t check in, the host wouldn’t get paid, meaning there is no incentive for people to list fake listings.”

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