A short-term-let company called HipHipStay, which plans to expand to become a platform for luxury homes “with a cool kind of swagger”, has applied for planning retention on five homes in Dublin – including one that it named the Bobby Sands Suite.
Bobby Sands, a member of the Provisional IRA, in 1981 died of starvation in prison at the age of 27 after 66 days on hunger strike.
“We just name all our properties after famous or historic Irish people,” says the director of HipHipStay, William McGlade. “Travellers are intrigued by all the different stories.”
The name was later changed on Airbnb, to the Daniel Day Lewis Suite. But as of 3 December, it is still called the Bobby Sands Suite on other sites, including Hotels.com and HomeAway.
McGlade has applied – on behalf of the property owners, he says – for planning permission to continue using five residential townhouses at 14 to 18 Grattan Court East, near Grand Canal Dock, as holiday lets.
On 15 November, a spokesperson for Dublin City Council said that 12 property owners had applied, since new rules came in, for planning permission to convert homes to short-term-let businesses.
At that stage, nine of those applications had been decided: six were refused, two were withdrawn, and one was deemed invalid, a spokesperson said.
HipHipStay manages 30 properties around Dublin, but has only applied for planning permission for these five. It’s not up to his company to do that, says McGlade. “They are not our properties so that is up to the landlord.”
HipHipStay also appears to have been reviewing itself on Airbnb – a lot. Airbnb says that this host has now been suspended.
On Grattan Court East, there’s a large brown-brick block of four-storey townhouses, each with a parking space on the ground floor and a roof garden on top. They have four bedrooms and three bathrooms, according to a listing on HomeAway.
McGlade’s application is for planning retention of a short-term-let business. That suggests that the property is already being used for this purpose, and McGlade is asking for permission to keep on doing that.
Does that indicate that the properties are currently being rented, in breach of the short-term-let regulations that were introduced on 1 July 2019?
Those rules say that if you are short-term letting a residential property that you don’t live in, you have to apply for planning permission to change the use from a home to a business. Homesharers living in a property can rent it out for up to 90 days without needing planning permission.
McGlade says the homes on Grattan Court East aren’t in breach of the law. “It is all different landlords there, so it is primary principal property you know,” he says.
Records from the Companies Registration Office list directors of DDSIS Homes Ltd as Alex Thomas, Guy De-Bromhead and Paul Mizow. The Beneficial Ownership Register lists only Paul Mizow as beneficial owner of DDSIS Homes Ltd, with 30 percent of shares.
For the moment, McGlade’s application for planning permission has been deemed invalid. That’s because the full addresses weren’t included in the newspaper adverts for the applications, and the wording was slightly off, the council’s decision says.
Still, McGlade says the five homes in Grattan Court East are not in breach of the short-term-let regulations. “We have been doing corporate lets there – there is a mixture of everything,” he says.
Corporate lettings are also legal without planning permission if the property is rented for more than 14 nights at a time. As of 3 December, theBobby Sands Suite was available to book on Hotels.com for a minimum of two nights.
HipHipStay lists 30 properties in Dublin on its website. Most of the addresses aren’t publicly available but a few are: 11 Lad Lane Upper, Dublin 2; 2 and 4 The Ropery, South Lotts Road, Dublin 4; and 1 St Mary’s Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
McGlade says he doesn’t own any of the properties he manages. He is reducing his direct involvement in property management in favour of becoming “a tech company”, he said.
He says he has plans to expand the business to other cities. “HipHipStay is a marketplace where homeowners can list their properties on our platform but is for luxurious properties,” he said.
McGlade says he has never reviewed his own properties.
However, on the Airbnb listings, a user named Will, with a profile photo that matches McGlade’s image, who says he works for DublinBNB, left 14 reviews for HipHipStay properties on various dates in 2017 and 2018.
DublinBNB is the original name of William McGlade’s company 5 Star Stay, according to the Companies Registration Office.
In July 2018, Will left a review on the Bono Suite thanking HipHipStay for “a five star stay”. HipHipStay responded and said they were delighted to have met him and his family.
Twice too, different guests have left identical reviews on different HipHipStay properties.
Since we raised questions about the reviews with McGlade, a user we mentioned to him, William from Blackrock, who had left duplicate reviews, has changed his name to Brian.
In November 2019, two different guests apparently stayed at different HipHipStay properties, but left the exact same review on Airbnb, word for word.
“Shaili from NJ” stayed in the John Lennon Suite in November 2019 and she left a glowing review:
“Beautiful place! Literally as nice as they have shown in the pictures. The hosts respond in timely manners … It definitely met and exceeded my expectations and I would recommend them to anyone! I would stay at their property again any time!” it reads
Also in November 2019, Hiphipstay hosted “William from Blackrock” at its Mary Robinson Suite. Said “William” in his review:
“Beautiful place! Literally as nice as they have shown in the pictures. The hosts respond in timely manners … It definitely met and exceeded my expectations and I would recommend them to anyone! I would stay at their property again any time!”
At around noon on 2 December, William McGlade said he wasn’t “William from Blackrock” and he couldn’t explain how two different guests, staying in two different properties, could leave identical reviews.
“I don’t know anything about that,” he said. “I know that is strange, but I actually have to go into meeting here.”
Within hours, William from Blackrock’s profile was changed, and he became Brian from Blackrock. The profiles have the same photo and the same reviews but a new name.
Airbnb hasn’t yet responded to queries as to whether users are allowed to change the names on their profiles.
Formerly William from Blackrock (now Brian) apparently stayed in four HipHipStay properties in Dublin in November 2019, according to the Airbnb reviews.
On It Goes
Other regulars at HipHipStay are Phillip and Andrey. In November 2019, Andrey stayed in the Daniel Day Lewis Suite – as the Bobby Sands Suite has been renamed on Airbnb – and he left a long, detailed review.
“The customer service from this host was outstanding … The location is brilliant. The house is spacious, clean and very well catered for (tea, expresso coffee machine, shampoo/body wash etc…) … Thanks Phil, Rob and team. You were really welcoming & lovely!” said Andrey.
But just a month earlier, in October 2019, another user called Claire left exactly the same review for her stay in the William Butler Yeats Suite.
“The customer service from this host was outstanding … The location is brilliant. The house is spacious, clean and very well catered for (tea, expresso coffee machine, shampoo/body wash etc…) … Thanks Phil, Rob and team. You were really welcoming & lovely!” said Claire.
McGlade says he was not aware of any issues with the reviews for HipHipStay on Airbnb. “I don’t know anything about that,” he said.
According to the Airbnb profiles each of them has been “verified” by Airbnb. Airbnb didn’t directly answer questions about their verification procedures.
“We have zero tolerance for this type of behaviour and as soon as this was brought to our attention, we launched an immediate investigation and have suspended the host from the platform,” an Airbnb spokesperson said.
“Fake or misleading content has no place in our community, and our systems constantly evaluate hundreds of risk signals to identify and stop bad actors. With over two million guests staying in an Airbnb on any given night, issues are incredibly rare.”