Countries and cities around the world are enacting legislation to restrict short-term rentals (aka AirBnb rentals) and some of these restrictions also apply to home exchange. In Europe, Canada and the United States this legislation forces home swappers to comply with costly and difficult registration requirements and imposes significant limitations on home exchanges. More cities, states and countries are considering implementing similar regulations. Even if your municipality is not affected, these regulations will limit your options for home exchanges.
What’s the point of all this legislation?
There are a few reasons for enacting restrictions on short-term rentals. The most legitimate is that short-term rentals have a negative impact on the availability of housing. In some places the lack of rental housing has become a serious problem. And so it’s not unreasonable to consider restrictions that prioritize housing over vacation rentals.
In addition, there may be concerns about health and safety in short-term rentals. Hotels are generally required to abide by various regulations meant to ensure the safety of guests. A few years ago I explained that we don’t know if Airbnb is more dangerous than hotels because there isn’t any data available to make this comparison. I don’t see anyone trying to demonstrate a safety issue that these regulations will address.
And finally, forcing these regulations on short term rentals definitely helps hotels. It’s likely the hotel lobby is pushing for these restrictions.
Why include home exchange in the legislation?
This is the question to ask. What harm is there in people exchanging the home they live in for low cost vacations? Well the hotels certainly would rather people have to pay for vacation lodging. But home swapping is such a small industry it’s hard to see how the very large hotel industry would consider this worth much lobbying time and energy.
Some people believe that part of the problem is so many people with short-term rental properties also listing those properties on home swap networks. It’s a smart idea. When your property isn’t rented you earn points to use for future travels. This idea starts down the path of considering exchange points as a sort of monetary equivalent. But some regulations explicitly call out the use of another person’s home as “payment in kind.” This language prohibits simultaneous swaps.
Unfortunately home exchange networks are not particularly flush with money. These regulations need to be fought in each municipality separately. And that’s not an easy battle for a bunch of small networks, even if they all coordinated for the fight. The best hope for this is HomeExchange as the network with the most money and clout.
Who is affected?
Amsterdam implemented regulations, which take effect October 1 which are incredibly onerous. Here are the requirements for home swappers:
- Register your home
- Pay €48.10 for a 6 month permit
- Limit exchanges to a maximum of 30 days in a year
- Notify the city each time you have exchange guests in your home
- Limit to 4 guests (unless the additional guests are children traveling with their parents)
- Guests must pay a tourist tax (which is as yet undefined)
Owners can only register their primary place of residence, secondary homes may not be used for home exchanges. The penalty for failing to comply is a fine of €8,700.
Scotland has enacted similar legislation which will become law on October 1. Homeowners in Scotland must register, pay a fee, and demonstrate of compliance with a list of home safety assessments. Anecdotal reports from some home swappers suggest that the initial license and associated paperwork will cost around £1000.
Wales is likely to follow Scotland and implement restrictions soon.
Honolulu, Hawaii imposed restrictions on home swapping in 2019 prohibiting stays for less than 30 days, with the allowance of one shorter stay in any 30 day period. In 2022 the regulation was updated to become even more restrictive, now prohibiting stays for less than 90 days.
Canmore is a small town near Banff in Canada that now has restrictions on short term rentals. These regulations explicitly include home exchanges: “Regardless of whether there is compensation or not, if you are using your home for short-term stays, it is considered a tourist home.”
I’m sure there are more, feel free to add any restrictions you’re aware of in the comments.
What can we do about it?
There are a few actions you can take to help fight these restrictions:
- People Like Us has initiated a petition campaign.
- If you reside in one of the places with restrictions you should contact your local representatives and explain why they should exclude home exchange from the regulations.
- If you hear about your local municipality considering short-term let regulations, get in touch with your representatives before they enact restrictions. Make sure they understand the distinction between home exchange and short-term rentals.