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Is the Airbnb Model Legal in Thailand?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests we are going to be discussing Airbnb.

For those who are unaware of what Airbnb is, it is the Uber of hotel rooms, for the lack of a better term. Basically it is space sharing but in kind of a hotel type of capacity. Basically it allows folks to rent rooms online but in much the same way that they would book a hotel room, you are doing it in someone's private residential area, for lack of a better term.

I'm sure that was rather a long intro as most of the folks watching this video are well aware of what  Airbnb is but that being said, I think my producer is actually laughing at me while I am making this video because I think I am being overly pedantic, but I think it is worth noting because we are getting into the question of "Is it legal in Thailand?"  This has really been kind of a “hot-button” topic, at least among expats over here in Thailand, because Airbnb is so prevalent in jurisdictions outside of Thailand but there seems to be some real conflicting information on the topic and some misunderstanding on it. 

The first thing I want to say to the question of "Is Airbnb legal here in Thailand?" is this. That is a good question. It is really hard to say. I think conceptually depending on how it is used, it probably would be considered legal although under certain circumstances, I can really see where it would not. Let me bring this up real quick. This is an article from the Bangkok Post, Bangkokpost.com, and basically the headline is “How Countries are Handling Airbnb’s Disruption”.  This was published July 11th, 2018. Quoting directly, “The core of Airbnb's problem in Thailand, a technology company created less than 10 years ago, is that there are currently no laws that specifically address Airbnb's disruptive business model innovation”. Let me stop right there. I will quote further in a moment but I would respectfully disagree with the author of the article on that. I think that there are laws on this. They didn't particularly anticipate this specific technology at the time they wrote those laws, but I think that there are laws that pertain to leasing, renting short-term letting of premises under Thai Law;  it just wasn't written at a time we had Airbnb. Moving on, quoting further. “However two Airbnb hosts were each fined 5,000 baht by the Hua Hin Provincial Court this year over their roles in providing unauthorized short-term stays, each with varying daily fines for the duration of the offense. I want to go back and quote one thing specifically there. "Providing unauthorized short-term stay stays". Thai Law has some specific provisions with respect to guest housing as well as hotels; there are actually specific types of licenses and specific types of permits that have to be obtained with respect to the practice of letting or leasing short-term rentals; they are relatively clear on that. In fact Thailand recently actually enacted changes to their long-term lease rules here in the Kingdom. So again, although I would urge those watching this video to check out this article, it is very good, it actually does a great assessment of how different jurisdictions in the region of Thailand are dealing with Airbnb, I think it is pertinent to point out that "Yes, there were fines assessed by a Court here in the Kingdom". Those who have watched this Channel with any frequency it would probably be a good idea to check out a prior video we did comparing the Common Law to the Thai Civil Law here in the Kingdom because unlike the Common Law system, precedent is not directly utilized in the Thai legal system. That being said, that is pretty compelling having had a Court in a resort area go ahead and fine someone for violating laws with respect to short-term stays.

So I think the thing to take away from this, I suspect that  Airbnb in a longer term context,  if you used Airbnb to book a six-month stay somewhere, that might be legal under Thai Law,  or a 1-year stay even, but these "day in day out" kind of things, I can’t say for certain if that is legal now nor can I say for certain if that is going to be considered legal in the future and from what I have heard, there  isn't any particular legislative reform currently in process to go ahead and change the law as it currently sits.