A warning to home exchange websites operating in the UK to improve their safety requirements has been issued by hospitality chiefs.
The British Hospitality Association is concerned that the UK’s reputation as a high quality and safe tourist destination could be damaged if guest health, safety and security checks are not properly delivered.
The BHA is asking home exchange websites specifically to ensure that all accommodation listed on their websites comply with mortgage requirements or tenancy agreements.
Homeowners will also need to adhere to fire regulations, attend to proper maintenance of gas boilers, appliances and equipment, check furniture is fire retardant, provide emergency contacts and ensure good housekeeping to minimise pests.
The caution coincided with the relaunch of home-sharing site Airbnb.
BHA legal and policy director Jackie Grech said: “When private homes are rented to tourists, it’s unlikely that these properties have ever had any fire risk or health and safety checks.
“Seventy six per cent of fire deaths in the UK last year were in the home and if you have strangers staying there who aren’t familiar with how things work, the risks could increase.
“Airbnb has pledged to send smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to home owners – we encourage Airbnb to follow through on this promise.
“This is a first step toward encouraging safer home stays in the UK. We strongly urge all home exchange websites to follow suit.”
She added: “We want everyone to enjoy British hospitality. We need to ensure that every consumer should be assured that regardless of the type of accommodation they purchase, that they will receive the same standards of protection from unnecessary risk.
“We believe that it’s the responsibility of home exchange websites to ensure that owners, and their paying guests, are aware of the risks and take all the necessary regulatory steps to ensure that their homes and their belongings are protected.
“This is only one area of concern for the BHA and there remain serious concerns about the potential for anti-social behaviour, nuisance and community disruption.
“Our role is to champion better standards across the industry. Tourists should be free to choose to stay in whichever accommodation they prefer. However, they must be afforded the same basic health and safety protection.
“The BHA and its members are among 2.7 million people employed in the industry who live and breathe hospitality and tourism. Hospitality is culturally stimulating, exciting and a very economically valuable industry, which is why our single minded aim is to promote and grow our sector.”