Airbnb camping presents many of the same problems for regulators

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Californians have found a new way to camp — and like short-term vacation rental and ride-sharing companies, it presents a new challenge for government regulators.

hip camp launched in 2013 to address issues that California campers are likely familiar with. The campsites fill up quickly. People often have to book their seats six months in advance. Government websites that campers use to book campsites on public land are poorly designed and difficult to navigate.

The service attempted to improve this process in California, and now its sleek, easy-to-use website has expanded nationwide, and also allows people to book camping destinations on private land.

It’s the Airbnb of the campsite. Landlords rent their land through the website. Prospective campers can search Hipcamp listings by location and can filter by price and amenities such as “drinking water”, “toilets” or “hiking”. Hosts charge anywhere from $20 to over $100 per night.

On 20 Landowners in San Diego County use the site, offering everything from high-end outdoor “glamping” sites (glamorous camping) with amenities such as outdoor beds, bathrooms and swimming pools to basic tent camping.

But like other elements of the sharing economythe rules and regulations that owners must follow are murky.

A few of the properties are listed in cities like Poway and Encinitas, and the owners there are likely breaking the law. For example, Robert Manis, director of development services for Poway, said the city does not allow the use or occupancy of a trailer or RV on residential land.

“We have provisions for storing an RV on residential land when the RV is owned by the owner. But he is not allowed to occupy it,” Manis wrote in an email. “Use of an RV as described with Hipcamp is not permitted under Poway municipal code.”

But most Hipcamp rosters are in county-governed unincorporated communities, where the rules aren’t as clear cut. There are no specific regulations related to home or land sharing, but homeowners must follow building, zoning, and other county regulatory codes.

“Before determining what would be required to allow people to camp on a property, the county would independently review each situation and assess the land use characteristics of the property to determine applicable requirements,” the gatekeeper wrote. county spokesperson, Jessica Northrup, in an email.

She said the county encourages landlords who want to rent campgrounds to contact the county first. Those who already do so could be violating building and zoning codes, Northrup said, especially people who have built decks or other structures without the necessary permits. Not having access to toilets or water can also be a problem.

Another big potential problem with camping on private property: fire hazards. Owners are responsible for ensuring their roads are wide enough to accommodate fire trucks.

And just like with Airbnb hosts, Hipcamp owners need to be careful when it comes to browsing. disability access and racial discrimination.

Ilana Friedman is a retired saleswoman who recently opened a nonprofit animal shelter at her Ramona property. To help generate income, she also listed her property on Hipcamp.

“We’ve already had quite a few guests,” she says. “It was pretty awesome. I met amazing people.

Campers on Friedman’s property have the added benefit of being allowed to spend time with his rescue animals. She has a dozen horses, a mule, lots of donkeys, two pot-bellied pigs, a sheep, a lamb, two goats, a 100-pound tortoise and other animals, including an indoor chicken that suffered an accident. stroke and now barks like a dog.

Friedman can rent four locations at a time on his five acres. She said some guests stayed on their own while others wanted to get involved and help feed and care for the animals.

She said she hadn’t told county officials about the relevant regulations because she didn’t know it was necessary; Hipcamp told her she had nothing to do, she said, and sent two young men once she signed up.

“They stayed overnight and they basically interviewed me and walked around the property with me and took a million photos and then it came up on Hipcamp,” she said. “From what Hipcamp said, everything was above board. I would never do anything that wasn’t honest.

Dawn Sardinas rents her land Ramona on Hipcamp and rents a house on Airbnb. She did a few things to make sure she didn’t break any rules, like getting a business license and a food handler license. She said she was also monitoring what the San Diego City Council was doing in terms of regulating the home-sharing industry so she could be prepared for any future regulations.

“As far as I know, I’m compliant,” she said.

Hipcamp spokeswoman Annelise Poda said in an email that its company policy is to encourage property owners to navigate local rules and regulations themselves.

“Unfortunately, as a market, we cannot advise our hosts on the laws and regulations in their specific areas, as these really vary from county to county and state to state,” Poda wrote. “Of course, we are happy to do what we can to help you navigate, but we only require that our hosts comply with these local laws and obtain the necessary permits applicable to them.

She said Hipcamp is working with policy advisors so the company can better help hosts in the future.

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