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



Joined: 30 May 2009
Posts: 5901
Location: The Westmorland Dales, Cumbria

PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 4:37 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 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.


My understanding is that as an owner of a self-catering property in the UK we can refuse a booking without giving a reason, however at the moment I cant point to any reliable source to confirm that - I might have to dig deep! Its different for a hotel.

However, if we give reasons for refusing it has to be within the terms of the Equality Act, so you cant impose a blanket ban based on age (if over 18 ), gender, race etc etc. You can choose not to accept single-sex groups as long as you apply that both to all male and all female groups, not just one.

So in answer to the question "what is a legitimate reason for refusing a booking? the only other one I can come up with is I dont believe our property would be suitable for you, end of.

A grey area indeed.
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paolo



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

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oldhacker wrote:
So my question to you remains are HA/OD overstepping the mark in preventing owners vetting potential renters?

There is an irony to a company called Owners Direct not letting you communicate directly with an owner. For the 4 big listing sites, or OTAs as they are called now, they will do whatever they want to maximise profit. Until such point as people vote with their feet. Which won't happen for now because these sites dominate Google results and spend so much on advertising that renters gravitate to them without even using Google.

If you want the renter to be able to circumvent the listing sites and get to you through your own site, make sure your house has a distinctive name (not Rose Cottage) and put the name of your house in the title of your ad, and prominently in the text. I have seen ads on listing sites that successfully mention the address of the personal website, either by omitting the www. or adding spaces in the address.
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roxytoo



Joined: 03 Feb 2005
Posts: 1585
Location: Spain Costa Blanca

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My title (villa lisa) on trip advisor has now been taken out with this message

To keep payments secure, we can't allow contact details, payment information or references to other sites in messages or listings.

The title for our apartment Casa De Suenos is still there!
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Oldhacker



Joined: 18 May 2016
Posts: 44

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
There is an irony to a company called Owners Direct not letting you communicate directly with an owner. For the 4 big listing sites, or OTAs as they are called now, they will do whatever they want to maximise profit. Until such point as people vote with their feet. Which won't happen for now because these sites dominate Google results and spend so much on advertising that renters gravitate to them without even using Google.


Hi Paolo - what you describe is abuse of a dominant / monopolistic market position by HA/OD etc. which could be of interest to the CMA or Trading Standards in the UK. There is also the question of removing the ability of owners to vet prospective renters riding roughshod over local laws in some countries which require such vetting. Certainly if OTA's were regulated or licensed in the same way that airlines and taxi companies are I think they would be in hot water already. Just look at Ryanair and Uber just now as two examples. In the UK it is now a criminal offence (punishable by prison or an unlimited fine) for residential property owners not to vet and carry out identity checks on prospective tenants. Holiday lettings are currently exempt but it is a fine line in some cases.

There is also the legal issue of the role HA/OD are playing in substance. They claim to be pure advertising platforms but the recent changes such as charging booking fees to guests, removing direct communication between owners and potential guests, encouraging potential guests to phone them with questions and denying owners access to details of potential guests mean that, in substance, they are carrying on more as agents than advertising portals. This potentially opens up a whole host of legal issues for them.
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jafa



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
Posts: 22
Location: Kirchberg in tirol

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ive already contacted Trading Standards in the UK. As they are a Swiss registered company, they weren't interested.
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Oldhacker



Joined: 18 May 2016
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jafa wrote:
Ive already contacted Trading Standards in the UK. As they are a Swiss registered company, they weren't interested.


Hi Jafa - they are not a Swiss registered company. From their website and T&C's:

Quote:
The operations of HomeAway in Europe are managed by HomeAway UK Limited of Level 25, Portland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5BH

https://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/info/about-us/legal/traveller-terms-conditions

And from their FB page-

Quote:
Company Overview
Owners Direct specialises in advertising privately owned holiday accommodation direct from the owner. We have advertised holiday properties since 1997 and on our web site you will find over 57,000 villas, apartments, chalets, farmhouses and cottages - all types of holiday accommodation in countries throughout the world. We have seen enormous growth in recent years and are delighted to report that, we were voted Runner Up in the Best Villa Rental Companies category in the Conde Nast Readers Travel Awards 2009.

In August 2007 Owners Direct became part of HomeAway Inc. which owns the largest holiday websites in the US and Europe. We continue to operate as a separate brand from our offices in Epsom, UK.


https://www.facebook.com/pg/ownersdirect/about/?ref=page_internal
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jafa



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
Posts: 22
Location: Kirchberg in tirol

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No problem, when I contacted TS it was them that looked them up and told me due to the Swiss connection.
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ManxRed1



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

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jafa wrote:
Ive already contacted Trading Standards in the UK. As they are a Swiss registered company, they weren't interested.


Your local Trading Standards? Is there a Trading Standards UK?

This is the company that is listed as being the contracting party on the Ts & Cs you sign up to when you advertise on HomeAway:

HOMEAWAY UK LIMITED
25TH FLOOR
PORTLAND HOUSE BRESSENDEN PLACE
LONDON
SW1E 5BH
Company No. 03152676

Definitely NOT a Swiss company. This is the company you need to complain about. Depending on where you live, local trading standards can vary wildly from 'tenacious' to 'don't give a monkeys'. It can sometimes be pot luck.

On the subject of oldhacker's point above:

Quote:
There is also the legal issue of the role HA/OD are playing in substance. They claim to be pure advertising platforms but the recent changes such as charging booking fees to guests, removing direct communication between owners and potential guests, encouraging potential guests to phone them with questions and denying owners access to details of potential guests mean that, in substance, they are carrying on more as agents than advertising portals. This potentially opens up a whole host of legal issues for them.


This is the nub of the issue for them. Also, (and I've just put a review on trustpilot about this) they are quite happy to spin a response of 'we're a booking platform, not an advertising website' AND 'we're an advertising website, not a booking platform' depending on what the complaint is in regard to. They essentially spin it to the answer that most supports their response.

They WANT to be booking platform, because that justifies the added fees/revenue, the control over the holidaymaker, the commoditising of other people's property, ability to compete with hotel booking websites, etc... but they CAN'T actually be one, because they have no control over the properties, pricing, availability (owners are, after all, likely to advertise in more places than simply HomeAway/OD), owners' ability to veto bookings, etc.

They can try as much as they like, but their ambition is to be a booking website, but deep down they know they can't. In the process of taking it as far as they can though, owners (and holidaymakers) will suffer. But that's not their concern.

Neither, it seems, is the law. Michael O'Leary is not alone it would seem.
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COYS



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

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oldhacker wrote:
Quote:
There is an irony to a company called Owners Direct not letting you communicate directly with an owner. For the 4 big listing sites, or OTAs as they are called now, they will do whatever they want to maximise profit. Until such point as people vote with their feet. Which won't happen for now because these sites dominate Google results and spend so much on advertising that renters gravitate to them without even using Google.


Hi Paolo - what you describe is abuse of a dominant / monopolistic market position by HA/OD etc. which could be of interest to the CMA or Trading Standards in the UK. There is also the question of removing the ability of owners to vet prospective renters riding roughshod over local laws in some countries which require such vetting. Certainly if OTA's were regulated or licensed in the same way that airlines and taxi companies are I think they would be in hot water already. Just look at Ryanair and Uber just now as two examples. In the UK it is now a criminal offence (punishable by prison or an unlimited fine) for residential property owners not to vet and carry out identity checks on prospective tenants. Holiday lettings are currently exempt but it is a fine line in some cases.

There is also the legal issue of the role HA/OD are playing in substance. They claim to be pure advertising platforms but the recent changes such as charging booking fees to guests, removing direct communication between owners and potential guests, encouraging potential guests to phone them with questions and denying owners access to details of potential guests mean that, in substance, they are carrying on more as agents than advertising portals. This potentially opens up a whole host of legal issues for them.


Excellent analysis Oldhacker & has long been my view that the 'one size fits all' mantra so coveted by the OTA's fails to consider differing regional regulations & laws across the private rental sector. They will have little interest in this until it bites them on the bum like Uber, Ryanair etc as has already started happening in a few selected regions.
Were we to be found in breach of our licence conditions - for example: over occupation, non registered tenants, mimimum durations, noise pollution & any number of others we would be in deep s**t. Huge fines or revoked licences would follow. Choose to rent without the proper authorisations & you risk worse.
Working within the rules of our chosen region & the diktat of the OTA's is therefore a risky proposition & I don't see perfectly worthwhile regional regulations &/or business practices being scrapped just so the OTA's can keep their numbers up.
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Rogthedodge



Joined: 06 Feb 2011
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

S'cuse my ignorance but what does OTA stand for.

Really good discussion from all, but nobody on this earth will tell me who I can or cannot accommodate in my house. Arrogant yes, sensible even more yes.
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paolo



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
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Location: Provence, France

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

roxytoo wrote:
My title (villa lisa) on trip advisor has now been taken out]

I don't think it will be long before this is adopted by all of them, it's such an obvious flaw in their sealed system.
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AndrewH



Joined: 12 Sep 2013
Posts: 1206
Location: Kefalonia, Greece

PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oldhacker wrote:

Hi Jafa - they are not a Swiss registered company.

"Owners Direct Holiday Rentals Limited" and "Homeaway UK Limited" are both UK private limited companies, registered at Companies House in London and both have the same Registered Office address at Portland House, London.

If anyone should need to know (i.e. Trading Standards and the like), the registered company number for OD is 05347639 and for HA(UK) it is 03152676. In both cases, they are put under the category "Web Portal".
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Last edited by AndrewH on Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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COYS



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

PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rogthedodge wrote:
S'cuse my ignorance but what does OTA stand for.

Really good discussion from all, but nobody on this earth will tell me who I can or cannot accommodate in my house. Arrogant yes, sensible even more yes.


Online Travel Agent (Agency)
Or my personal fave
Odious Twats Association.
You choose Wink
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Rogthedodge



Joined: 06 Feb 2011
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Odious Twats Association. Razz
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Oldhacker



Joined: 18 May 2016
Posts: 44

PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Excellent analysis Oldhacker & has long been my view that the 'one size fits all' mantra so coveted by the OTA's fails to consider differing regional regulations & laws across the private rental sector. They will have little interest in this until it bites them on the bum like Uber, Ryanair etc as has already started happening in a few selected regions.


It is interested that both the Owners Direct and Homeaway UK websites are still stating:

Quote:
Please note: we highly recommend you always screen any potential guest before letting them book your home.


https://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/info/tipsandtools/online-bookings-and-payments/frequently-asked-questions

While at the same time making it impossible for owners to do so! I reckon this issue is going to come back and bite them hard.
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