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14 December 2023
In a recent incident that has raised serious concerns about fire safety at Airbnb accommodations, a tourist visiting Glasgow from Switzerland has called for stricter fire regulations. Heather Chalmers, booked a short-term accommodation through the popular website Airbnb.
Their experience left them deeply dissatisfied with the most alarming issue they encountered was the discovery of a fire extinguisher that had expired a staggering 17 years ago.
"I was frightened and wrote to Airbnb," Heather Chalmers recalled. "You could see that it was corroded, and it had been there for a very long time. It was also very small and hidden at the back of the cupboard."
This discovery immediately raised concerns about their safety. Heather explained, "We would have had no chance to get out if there was a fire. And then I realised it was even worse because it was a third-floor flat; we couldn't have gotten out. If we were in the living room and flames broke out, and we had to leave the room, we couldn't have found our way to the door because we didn't know where it was. There was no signage and no way out indicated anywhere."
The absence of other fire safety devices further exacerbated their unease. Heather continued, "There was no other way, no fire blanket, no fire plan, or any mention of where to find a fire extinguisher at all. It also didn't look like anyone else lived there; it was quiet, and there was lots of unopened mail on the floor."
Heather Chalmers is now calling for the council to take more responsibility and ensure that short-term lets are better regulated. She stressed, "I believe that every council should have minimum requirements and a duty of care to ensure that all of these homes are fire safe. There could have been a family with kids staying there. The next person will have the same problem. You could potentially die; it's not safe at all. These properties are like the Wild West, and clearly, nobody is regulating them."
Following the incident, Airbnb contacted the property owner, and Heather's group moved out, opting to pay for a nearby hotel room after receiving a partial refund.
In Glasgow, a short-term let licence, issued by the council, is required for anyone operating an Airbnb. This new regulation, introduced last year, mandates hosts to register by 2025. Once registered, the council is responsible for ensuring that these accommodations meet safety standards, including satisfactory fire detection equipment and carbon monoxide detectors.
A spokesperson from Glasgow City Council commented, "An application for a short-term let licence has been received in connection with this address and will be fully considered in due course. All applications are determined on the merits of the individual case and within the context of our policy on short-term let licences, which includes conditions set by national legislation."
An Airbnb spokesperson added, "The safety of our community is a priority, and we regularly send hosts in Scotland expert advice and information on fire safety and update them on local rules and regulations. We have reached out to the host to remind them of local fire safety guidance."
This incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of stringent fire safety regulations and vigilance in ensuring the safety of short-term accommodations. The need for councils to take proactive measures in regulating such properties to protect the lives of guests cannot be overstated.
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