- - Monday, August 25, 2014

I strongly object to your recent editorial, “Peeping Toms in San Francisco bedrooms” (Web, Aug. 5). As an owner of several hotels, I find the recent rise in short-term, online rental companies such as Airbnb and VRBO troubling. Not for competitive reasons, but because of the risks these companies pose to consumers.

Companies that allow travelers to rent out apartments, houses or spare rooms don’t have the same safety oversight of hotels and other traditional lodging services. They could be missing critical items such smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems. Further, unlike hotels, where key control is paramount, these short-term rental units use the same hard key over and over. There’s no telling whether a prior user made copies.

Finding out in the middle of the night that the home or apartment building you’re staying in doesn’t have the proper safety precautions is the last thing anyone wants, especially if the lodger has young children or is an elderly person.

Insurance is also a concern. If the owner of the home, apartment or room you rent doesn’t have the right insurance, you could find yourself responsible for any damage caused during your stay.

Furthermore, many listings on websites such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com are not simply spare bedrooms, they’re part of buildings that have been largely converted into what amounts to illegal hotels. These rogue hoteliers are often not subject to new, onerous regulations. In fact, in many localities, they are sidestepping well-established health and safety laws meant to protect the consumer, not snuff out competition.

It doesn’t matter where you book your stay; as a guest, you have a right to feel safe and secure. That’s what I want for my guests, and that is what we should be ensuring across the board for short-term, online rental companies, too.

GREG MILLER

Owner, PM Hospitality Strategies Inc.

Washington