Regulating new technology for property investment: Blockchain and Airbnb

Robert Home

Business and Law - Faculty of Business and Law - Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), UK


Property technology (or Proptech) is a growing global sector within IT. The UK has a large number of startups that are changing the property market in areas of investment, big data analytics, online transactions, and management. The modern property mantra is no longer 'location, location, location, but 'location, experience, analytics'. The regulatory challenge (generating its own RegTech IT developments) is not only to 'stop bad things happening', but also to 'not stop good things from happening', within a regulatory environment that can help the sector to thrive both globally and locally. The paper will address regulatory aspects of two Proptech applications: Blockchain and Airbnb. Blockchain or distributed ledger systems are being promoted as a decentralized network that provides an on-line archive of proven provenance, making property transactions secure, authenticated and verifiable. The World Bank has suggested that it could increase land titling coverage and allow better property transactions. There are technical issues around scalability, inter-operability of ledgers, transition costs, computation energy consumption, irreversibility of records, coexistence of both traditional and digital players, algorithms generating automatic transactions. There are regulatory concerns about network security and potential for fraud in property transactions, The paper will present examples from Africa (Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia) where land is occupied under communal rather than private or state tenure regimes, and from the UK, where the Land Registry has prevented property fraud using a false identity. The Land Registry recently successfully prototyped the first digital transfer of property in the UK with blockchain, giving simultaneous visibility across multi-party transactional data, offering improved clarity, speed and efficiency for everyone involved, with automatic completion once all conditions were met. Airbnb aims to host one billion guests each year by 2028, and presents regulatory challenges. The European Court of Justice in 2019 expressed opinion that Airbnb was an information society services provider, free to provide their online intermediation services across the EU under free movement of services. The. regulatory challenges are mainly at city or municipal level, because Airbnb can distort the local rental property market, as property owners switch from long-term to more lucrative short-term rentals, and cause disturbance to neighbours. Regulations may control the number of nights each year a property can be rented out, the hiring of entire homes, licensing, tax requirements. Examples will be discussed for Amsterdam: Barcelona, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Singapore and Tokyo.


"Property technology regulation" "Blockchain" "Airbnb" "Property fraud"