Windhoek-The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) has turned its regulatory eye on the operations of Airbnb in the country, the online property-sharing company that continues to attract complaints and discontent over its lack of compliance with city regulations from Sydney, Tel Aviv, London and Barcelona to New York, Boston and Seattle.
The irate neighbours staying next to the rented out properties complain of excessive noises in the small hours of the morning, unscrupulous tenants and drug use, while homeowners have complained of arriving to find their properties destroyed by tenants, some of whom had staged wild parties.
In Namibia there are over 300 listed properties for rent on the Airbnb website, that aim to attract travellers looking to save on accommodation costs, or those who simply do not want to stay in hotels, but want to have a more homely experience in a foreign country.
It is also an easy way for people to earn extra income, or even run an informal hotel business.
The bulk of Namibian listed properties are in the coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, although there are also properties listed for Windhoek, Mariental, Aranos, Ongwediva, Otjiwarongo and Tsumeb.
“All persons offering their homes to AirBnB are kindly requested to comply with the Namibian laws and to register such accommodation with the Namibia Tourism Board on or before 31 December 2017. Failure to comply with the provision criminal proceedings will be instituted against such none compliant persons,” the NTB said in a public notice.
The NTB issued a statement that no Namibian is allowed to offer accommodation to paying guests without that person or that accommodation being registered with the NTB.
“Any person who provides accommodation to a tourist in an accommodation establishment, which is not registered under section 20, commits an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding N$20,000 or to imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both such fine and imprisonment,” the NTB said.
Persons wishing to run accommodation establishments should apply to the board for registration.
AirBnB has itself taken on an advisory role to those who wish to list their properties on its website, admonishing people to first comply with the laws and regulations in their countries or cities before listing their properties.
“When deciding whether to become an Airbnb host, it’s important for you to understand how the laws work in your city,” the company says on its website.
It then goes on to alert potential hosts of the laws, permits and licences that may be required to operate a bed and breakfast establishment, depending on the country and city one lives in.
Airbnb has four million home listings in 191 countries, but there are also other short-term rental applications, such as HomeAway, which includes VRBO, and has two million rentals listed in 190 countries.
At Airbnb neighbours can go to its website to lodge a complaint. The company has shut down a number of listings after neighbours complained of people not adhering to local regulations and has blocked some customers from ever using its services for damage to property and disturbance of peace in neighbourhoods.