The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop #01183

Submission Number:
01183
Commenter:
Abraham Walker
State:
Georgia
Initiative Name:
The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
My wife and I first heard about Airbnb in the Fall of 2013. We registered in Dec 2013 and launched our web site on Airbnb in March 2014; soon after which our first guest arrived at our home. We have 2 grown children; the one is a lawyer and the other a computer analyst. I am a retired Physician Assistant and Psycho-Therapist, and my wife was an independent business contractor, who was forced into retirement after an auto accident in 2008. We live on my pension, Soc. Sec. check, and on my wife's SS Disability check--a total of just over $4,300.00 a month. We have a mortgage on our home, and own one vehicle that we will pay off this December. We own no other property or investments. Due to the downturn in the real estate market in 2008, our home like those in our zip code, are "upside down". Our home is now worth 60% LESS than what we paid for it in 1987! Our home is approximately 2100 sq. ft. Outside of the above mentioned income, we have no other--except that which we earn from renting our 600 sq.ft., furnished, self-contained (no kitchen) basement suite. In 2014 our income from Airbnb hosting was a little under $4,600.00. Without this income we would have fallen behind in paying out bills. This is because it was necessary for me to retire (at the age of 70) from my profession as a treatment consultant. Please understand that we LOVE hosting folks who have come to our door from not only the USA but other places in the world. We feel privileged to have these folks choose us as their host. This has been a great experience. We take great pride in what we do. We follow the rules set down by Airbnb. We don't compromise our values or ethics. We only communicate via Airbnb, as it provides a safeguard for us as host, and for the guest. Airbnb has put into effect a process that ensures the safety and security of all when the rules are followed; and it ensures a positive experience for host and guest. We know this to be true because this has been our experience. We like the fact that we pay Federal Taxes because we have a legitimate home business. And, prior to signing with Airbnb, we checked with our local county on its rules and regulations regarding renting rooms in our home. We have on file an email from the Permitting Office informing us there are no restrictions to renting rooms in our home. We would gladly pay local taxes if and when the time comes. However, please note: We feel very strongly that our small home business should NOT have hotel taxes placed on it because we are NOT A HOTEL OR EVEN A BED AND BREAKFAST IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE OF THE WORD. We are, however, a private home that, from time to time, rents space to out of town guests. On average we have about 1-2 bookings a month, for about 3-4 days per booking. We limit vehicles to 1 auto and that is parken in our driveway. Airbnb has been a great boon for us. Had we NOT taken this entrepreneurial opportunity our financial future would be very bleak. My wife and I have been married for 35 years and worked tirelessly to provide a home for ourselves and our children. We are decent, law-abiding, tax paying, voters and citizens, who have volunteered and continue to volunteer in our community. We saw an opportunity and took it! It has helped pay our bills after retirement. Given the opportunity to continue with Airbnb, we will be out of debt by 2017, at which time we will be able to put some $$ away for a rainy day and visit our children (without financial worry) who live out of state. In closing, we trust good judgement will be used in deciding the future of this business. What you decide will make the difference for folks like us--that difference being peace of mind and a modest quality of life in our remaining years. Thank you. Abraham and Joan Walker