Big rise in illegal B&Bs in Pietermaritzburg

2017-02-22 06:00

THERE seems to be a free-for-all in the accommodation business in Pietermaritzburg, with hundreds of illegally operating bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) taking away the business of legal establishments.

There are hundreds of B&B establishments in Pietermaritzburg and most of them are not registered with the municipality or the provincial government.

This is according to Midlands Bed & Breakfast Association chairperson Des Morgan, who says that these operations not only compete unfairly with the legal businesses, but they also often give the industry a bad name through shoddy service.

Another issue is whether opening up one’s home for Airbnb is legal without registering with the appropriate authorities.

Airbnb is an online marketplace and homestay network that enables people to list or rent short-term lodgings in residential properties.

There are reportedly up to 186 properties listed as Airbnb accommodation in the city. Another big problem facing the legal B&B industry in the city is that many unregistered establishments are simply a front for brothels.

B&Bs need to obtain permission from the municipality to operate an accommodation business in a residential suburb, and they need to be registered with the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism Affairs.

They need to have a business licence and they also need to have public liability insurance.

In addition, legally operating B&B owners have to pay more in rates, electricity and a host of other services, which the unregistered businesses do not.

Morgan said that part of the problem is that the municipality does not have the staff to check whether B&Bs have the required special permission to operate as a business.

In addition, when the association was last able to see the municipality’s list of establishments with the special consent to operate B&Bs, some years ago, it was evident the list was outdated and with many errors.

“The municipality needs to make it easy to register, as it was several years ago.

“We hear reports that registering to operate a B&B has become so difficult that one needs to employ a consultant and it could cost a B&B owner up to R25 000 to get it done.”

Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism director Dumisani Mhlongo said the proliferation of illegally operating B&Bs is a long-standing problem in the city.

He said according to regulations promulgated in May 2004, businesses that provide services and facilities to tourists in the province need to register with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

They require the following

1. Municipality special consent.

2. Proof of a business licence.

3. Proof (letter/certificate) of membership with a local community tourism organisation (CTO) or publicity association (in Pietermaritzburg’s case, the Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism Association).

4. Proof of public liability insurance.

Mhlongo said Airbnbs are a new phenomenon which have tourism as their primary business, so these should also follow the same registration process.

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