HCR announces it will no longer book short-term accommodation for business clients using online market sites. Here CEO, Adrian Leach, explains why.

At HCR the heart of our business has always been to offer value for money to our clients and to provide a duty of care to their employees.  As a relocation company we are often asked to find accommodation for our client’s employees for short periods. Preferably in properties that are not as impersonal as hotels and which offer a stay experience that is more home-from-home.  In major cities around the world these are generally serviced apartments that offer advantages such as full kitchen facilities.

Over many years our company has created a global network of trusted agents and landlords who can provide short-term accommodation to the requisite standard, with customer services to match.   Like many in the industry, we understood that the technological advances offered by online accommodation sites would offer significant efficiencies in this market, but our research and experiences has forced us to conclude that the scope for fraud, illegality and deception has meant that renting through these sites has now become too risky.

Across the world there are now numerous disputes between city authorities and sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com and others.  These principally revolve around zoning – where residential properties are effectively used as business premises in non-designated areas – and the avoidance of taxes and tourist levies.  But as property specialists we have additional concerns around compliance.  For example, in the UK, successive governments have progressively sought to regulate aspects of the private rental housing market to ensure that rented properties meet a raft of regulations to safeguard the occupants. None of these will necessarily apply in an online rented property or bedroom because, in theory, these properties are intended to be short period lets, for less than 90 days a year.

Anyone who does not share our concerns about this might like to read a recent article in the online magazine Wired.  The article sets out in detail how apartments in a new block in Central London were let online in apparent complete breach of all the relevant regulations. It also charts the impotent response of companies in the short-term let marketplace and Council planning authorities.

As a responsible and ethically managed company, we are on record as having advised our clients and industry contacts that anyone booking accommodation for their employees must be fully aware of their responsibilities for undertaking proper due diligence on the properties being rented and the risk of vicarious liability they take if this is not done.

HCR is now taking a stand to protect our clients and our assignees; we will not book short term accommodation via online market sites until legislation and consequent regulation improves.  If we cannot be sure of the safety of an occupant in a property by only working with reputable organisations, then we will not make the bookings.

If you wish to discuss this decision or other matters raised in this article, please contact Adrian Leach at Adrian.Leach@hcr.co.uk

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