The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop #01690

Submission Number:
Kirsten Kohlwey
Initiative Name:
The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
I have been involved in the sharing economy for over a year now. I list rooms for rent through Airbnb and welcome people into my home. The extra income has allowed me to keep taking breaks from my other job as a freelance translator to take care of my mother who had a stroke. I discovered the shortcomings of the US and Utah laws a few years ago, when I went through a divorce. Utah does not require the payment of alimony. So after over 20 years of marriage and raising two children, I had to find a way to quickly support myself. Even though I used to work as a software engineer, my corporate career ended 20 years earlier when I stayed home to raise the children, since there were no daycare spots available for young children. When I went to the department of Workforce Services, they saw that I had an M.S. degree and denied me any training assistance. Obviously, the software industry has not changed in the last 20 years. I landed on my feet though. I worked my way into the global freelance translation business. When I found that I needed to continue to take large chunks of time off to care for my mother, who does not live with me, I added the Airbnb business. I jumped through all of the legal hoops of getting the appropriate business licenses for this and having my home inspected by the fire department. My experience with this has been wonderful. My guests tell me about themselves before I accept their reservation and I have met wonderful people of many races (at least 7), and from many states and countries. If we all did this, there would be much less fear in this world. I like Airbnb's host guarantee that protects my home should I ever have a problem and their proactive attitude. They sent me a free smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector when I requested it. I also participated in their One Less Stranger campaign. They sent me money to use to meet a new person. I bought chocolates and presented them to the person that runs the local gas station. A month later she called me up when one of my guests stopped there and needed directions. I also regularly send my guests to the local restaurant for breakfast. They come back with raving reviews, so this is not just helping my income. What I found most surprising, is that many of my guests prefer staying at my home rather than at a hotel, because it gives them the environment they need to work while they are traveling, or the feeling of home when they are on an extended trip around the country. The only scare I had was when the local tax assessor sent me a notice that my home would be taxed as a secondary home instead of a primary home because I applied for the rental business license. This has been my primary home for over 30 years. I sent in my documentation and haven't heard back from them, so I guess that notice was withdrawn.