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Legal implications of HA/OD preventing pre-booking vetting
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Oldhacker



Joined: 18 May 2016
Posts: 44

PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 2:14 pm    Post subject: Legal implications of HA/OD preventing pre-booking vetting Reply with quote

There is an interesting review on Trustpilot which raises the legal implications of HA/OD, as an advertising listing site rather than agent, preventing pre-booking vetting of prospective renters by owners -

https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.homeaway.co.uk

I know in the area of Cornwall where our holiday cottage is located the police have given owners gentle reminders that they are to vet prospective renters to avoid parties of youngsters staying. And there is a similar guideline from our management company. Plus I daresay legal advice from any lawyer worth his salt would recommend that owners find out and check out who they are dealing with before entering into a rental agreement.

So I wonder whether OD/HA have over-stepped the mark in removing access to details pre-booking and whether it might come back to bite them. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that aggressive tactics to shape a market to its advantage by a large online booking company have got them in trouble. For example look at Uber in London just now.
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 658
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indeed, & (love or hate them) Uber is a good example of blithely manipulating laws & regulations simply to suit their own ends. HA, ABB et-al are doing exactly the same in ignoring regional rental laws under the pretence of just being an advertising platform. They are far fom it.

Greece is notoriously beureacratic but it is impossible for those of us here to comply with the requirements of the GNTO (who issue our rental license) as well as the tax office without prior access to & a record of exactly who & how many are staying as well as other info required by local law.
As an aside, I'm certain our insurers would have no qualms in wriggling free of any potential claim were we to accept anonymous or third party reservations either.
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paolo



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
Posts: 3930
Location: Provence, France

PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vetting is all very well but on what grounds do you legally bar someone from booking? I don't think you can block someone without being discriminatory - young people have rights too.
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Paolo
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AndrewH



Joined: 12 Sep 2013
Posts: 1209
Location: Kefalonia, Greece

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

HA/OD have an answer when it relates to hiding an owner's email address in that email communications between a potential guest and an owner can still carry on through the medium of the HA or OD site.

However, HA/OD cannot produce an excuse for hiding an owner's telephone number on a listing and I believe it cannot be revealed until after a booking has been concluded, because it is blanked out if inserted into any preliminary email communications. In their answer to the Trustpilot post, as mentioned by Oldhacker (above), OD are careful to avoid that point.

I think it is more about guests wanting to vet owners than the other way round, or at least their being prevented from using the telephone to obtain answers from an owner, before committing to a booking.
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 658
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

paolo wrote:
Vetting is all very well but on what grounds do you legally bar someone from booking? I don't think you can block someone without being discriminatory - young people have rights too.

I'd disagree in part Paolo. I feel I have every right to decide who stays in my house or to decide if I think we are a suitable match. I also feel we have a moral obligation to do so as we are in a small area where there is a finely balanced mix of rental & residential property so the wider community suffer the results of indifference.
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Oldhacker



Joined: 18 May 2016
Posts: 44

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

paolo wrote:
Vetting is all very well but on what grounds do you legally bar someone from booking? I don't think you can block someone without being discriminatory - young people have rights too.


Hi Paolo - vetting potential guests to verify that they are suitable for your property / community is completely different from discrimination. All sorts of businesses, including campsites (many are family only and do not allow groups of youngsters) and private schools, do it as a matter of course. Many apartment blocks contain a clause in the lease that they are only to be occupied by people over 55 years of age.

In our area the police advise vetting in order to avoid problems of groups of 16 years olds on a post exam bender booking. I have asked a property lawyer and he advises vetting. I have checked with our insurance company and they advise it both to prevent avoidable damage and reckless / dangerous over-occupancy. We would risk not being insured if our property was damaged by a group who we had not vetted.

So HA/OD have overstepped the mark in removing the ability for their advertisers to vet potential renters before the rental agreement is entered into. Even worse they pretend they have done so in order to protect users from phishing etc. when the truth is they have done it to prevent people from booking direct without paying their fee.

Most private holiday property owners are not on site to check on guests once they arrive so being able to vet them before entering into a contract is essential.
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ManxRed1



Joined: 25 Jul 2016
Posts: 220
Location: Polperro, Cornwall, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my opinion...

It depends on the reason. Owners of private property (including restaurants, pubs, etc...) can use the term 'The management reserves the right to refuse admission...'.

As long as the reason for refusing admission isn't discriminatory in any way then owners of private property can do what they like with regard to allowing or not allowing people to enter.
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paolo



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
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Location: Provence, France

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a grey area. According to Visit Britain as a self-catering accommodation provider you can discriminate on grounds of age only if you can objectively justify it, for example "if you can show evidence of problems they have had with that age group in the recent past or where other providers have reported such problems Ė for example, during large events such as festivals when large groups of younger people tend to gather"

That doesn't really apply to most properties.

But when owners talk about vetting, they are not just talking about groups of youngsters. Some are forming opinions based on names, nationalities, facebook page, etc. For example, where I am in France a lot of French owners will not rent to the French.

I would be interested to know: what is a legitimate reason for refusing a booking? Excluding the above scenario, and assuming they don't exceed the max number of people or have animals.
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NeatandPicky



Joined: 30 Aug 2007
Posts: 353
Location: Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sadly we have some past guests who would not be welcome again.
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ManxRed1



Joined: 25 Jul 2016
Posts: 220
Location: Polperro, Cornwall, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What if I looked on their facebook page and found they were people who enjoyed a more 'dodgy' lifestyle (I don't know, clubbing, raves, drugs, alcohol, anything else, regardless of age) and I simply didn't like the cut of their jib.

There's nothing to stop me simply saying no. As long as I'm not basing the decision on the colour of their skin, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc. then I'm not doing anything wrong.

Bouncers can turn people away from pubs purely on how they look, as long as they're not doing it on the basis of the above reasons. It's private property. As long as you don't fall foul of discrimination laws, you can say yes or no to whoever you like.
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Oldhacker



Joined: 18 May 2016
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

paolo wrote:
This is a grey area. According to Visit Britain as a self-catering accommodation provider you can discriminate on grounds of age only if you can objectively justify it, for example "if you can show evidence of problems they have had with that age group in the recent past or where other providers have reported such problems Ė for example, during large events such as festivals when large groups of younger people tend to gather"

That doesn't really apply to most properties.

But when owners talk about vetting, they are not just talking about groups of youngsters. Some are forming opinions based on names, nationalities, facebook page, etc. For example, where I am in France a lot of French owners will not rent to the French.

I would be interested to know: what is a legitimate reason for refusing a booking? Excluding the above scenario, and assuming they don't exceed the max number of people or have animals.


Hi Paolo - assuming you are asking me as the originator of this thread my legitimate reasons for excluding a booking are groups of youngsters and over-occupancy which can be a problem anywhere. No other grounds but that is quite enough and very legitimate based on the lessons I have learned. This is based on advice from the police, lawyers and insurers which is legitimate enough for me. Incidentally HA gives the following advice to owners on its website-

Quote:
If you rent by owner, taking bookings is your responsibility. Every home owner should take the time to call potential renters, and screen them accordingly. If you donít feel comfortable hiring to a group of students looking for a wild weekend, or feel someone isnít being entirely straight with you, then go with your gut feeling. Youíre the one who gets to decide.

https://www.homeaway.co.uk/info/owner-resources/how-to-rent/beginners/rent-my-holiday-home

While at the same time making it impossible for owners to do just that by removing all personal and contact details from booking requests, inquiries etc. So my question to you remains are HA/OD overstepping the mark in preventing owners vetting potential renters?
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 658
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with ManxRed1. Or else you are simply open house & we have all read & heard about the horror stories associated with that scenario. It's by no means a science but ultimately for me if it doesn't look or feel right I'd rather err on the side of caution. Not always age based although we do not accept groups under 25 & make clear as such in all ads & T&C's.
A more recent issue has grown around large split groups renting several houses or villas close together for some 'celebration' or other often resulting in mayhem for residents or other holidaymakers. If for example I suspect we are shortlisted for that type of scenario, I will reject or cancel without hesitation. Likewise if I suspect over occupation. Not every decision has to be based upon race, gender, sexual orientation etc as the PC mafia would have us all believe.
Live & let live I say but if you want to do so at ours do it quietly & do it tidily Wink
Back to the OP - in my opinion, the actions of the OTA's are facilitating not only dubious business practice as the link suggests, but also illegal & sub standard holiday lets. Furthermore by sidelining owners into anonymous automatons disguised as a 'security feature' they are also in part culpable for the growing misuse &/or abuse of holiday rental property. I'd say that more than oversteps the mark.
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Jenster



Joined: 08 Mar 2016
Posts: 397
Location: Cornwall

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm curious - how do owners vet people based on their contact details?

All I do is ask (through the messaging system) what kind of group they are (family, couple etc) and why they are visiting, if they haven't already provided that information, which they usually do. I also ask for the names (and ages of under 18s) of everyone staying through the messaging system, which seems fine.

I have never refused a booking and the few groups of young surfers I have had have been fine. I would only refuse a booking if it was obvious from their messages that they just wanted to party but anyone with half an ounce of common sense wouldn't admit that anyway.

Anyone could lie so that's all you can go on really. Contact details don't really tell you anything unless you are phoning for a chat? Or do you stalk their fb page and other online presence too? Not sure I could be bothered with that.
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Oldhacker



Joined: 18 May 2016
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jenster wrote:
I'm curious - how do owners vet people based on their contact details?

All I do is ask (through the messaging system) what kind of group they are (family, couple etc) and why they are visiting, if they haven't already provided that information, which they usually do. I also ask for the names (and ages of under 18s) of everyone staying through the messaging system, which seems fine.

I have never refused a booking and the few groups of young surfers I have had have been fine. I would only refuse a booking if it was obvious from their messages that they just wanted to party but anyone with half an ounce of common sense wouldn't admit that anyway.

Anyone could lie so that's all you can go on really. Contact details don't really tell you anything unless you are phoning for a chat? Or do you stalk their fb page and other online presence too? Not sure I could be bothered with that.


Hi Jenster - my approach has been to send people wanting to book my booking form which requires names, ages and addresses for everyone staying. I will then check the names match the addresses. If anything doesn't stack up or if I get a gut feeling I give them a call. This approach also helps to weed out innocent mistakes by people not reading my listing. I have lost count of the number of times I have received requests through OD/HA which state a booking by 2 adults only to discover it is 2 adults, 2 children, a baby plus granny and grandpa which simply would not work due to bunk beds, number of bathrooms etc.
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 658
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can't speak for anyone else & I refuse to become a number within a messaging system but unless I feel comfortable that the enquiry or enquirer were reasonably suited to our property & location & are fully aware of our t&c's prior to making a booking request I would be hesitant to proceed. No stalking involved, just a conversation or a personal email or two, maybe ironing out a few details & you generally get a hint if something feels off.
As Oldhacker, a comprehensive booking form which can be cross referenced. Like I said not a science but once bitten.......
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