Warning to Airbnb Hosts in Hong Kong



Posted by Ed 12 days ago

AsiaXPAT has learned that the Office of the Licensing Authority has been deploying undercover agents who act as decoys to book apartments on the Airbnb platform. 

 They are also accepting and acting on complaints from whistle-blowers, often neighbours living near to flats that are being illegally let, who are unhappy with the coming and going of tourists.

If the apartment owners do not have proper licensing to operate short term visitor accommodation, they are prosecuting them in criminal courts.

Under the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, premises that offer sleeping accommodation for a fee over a period of less than 28 days must be licensed. The maximum punishment is a HK$200,000 fine and two years’ imprisonment.

AsiaXPAT has spoken to a representative of the Licensing Authority who indicates that 'a significant number of Airbnb hosts have been prosecuted and in some instances jailed' for operating short term visitor accommodation in Hong Kong without a license.

The Licensing Authority directed AsiaXPAT to their website to view details of the 800+ prosecutions to date.

In spite of evidence that the Hong Kong government is aggressively targeting law-breakers, when AsiaXPAT contacted Airbnb their representatives refused to answer when asked if they were alerting Hong Kong property owners to the fact that the Hong Kong government has prosecuted hundreds of their hosts in Hong Kong.

Safe to assume that there would be a significant number of Airbnb hosts in Hong Kong who are not aware that the Hong Kong government is serious about prosecuting hosts who are violating the law, and it is just a matter of time before an undercover agent discovers their illegal operations and hauls them in front of a judge.

The fact that Airbnb surely must be aware of the hundreds of successful criminal prosecutions of their hosts in Hong Kong yet is doing absolutely nothing to warn them, is completely unethical.

Taking that even further, the right thing for Airbnb to do would be to either shut down their Hong Kong channel or only allow hosts to list who are in possession of a proper operating license.    This should apply to any location where they are encouraging hosts to violate the local laws.



Ed 5 days ago
AsiaXPAT has been informed that some hosts are instructing their guests to lie in the event a government undercover agent approaches on a sting operation and asks if they are renting the apartment.
We have seen a photo of a document in an apartment rented on Airbnb of a laminated document that instructs guests what to say if they are asked questions about their status in the apartment. 
They are specifically asked to state that they are not paying and are staying as friends of the owner.
AsiaXPAT has obtained a legal opinion regarding this situation and has been informed that:
1.  If the guest lies to the authorities they risk being charged as they would complicit in the illegal letting of short term accommodation in Hong Kong.
2.  The host risks much more serious consequences if they instruct a guest to lie to the authorities because they cannot claim they were unaware that letting their apartment without the proper license constitutes a criminal act.   The judge would likely enforce harsher penalties that could include a custodial sentence and a large fine.
AsiaXPAT has  again contacted Airbnb for comment on why they are not requiring their hosts in Hong Kong to have proper licensing in place before allowing them to post their apartment for rent on the Airbnb platform.
We are awaiting a response. 

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