Hoteliers and apartment residents are dismayed by an official recommendation that New South Wales legalise short-term letting through “sharing economy” platforms like Airbnb, regardless of whether there is a resident on site.
A NSW government committee looking into the matter has recommended that the state allow short-term letting of any property where the landlord or host is present; that it permit short-term letting of a principal place of residence, and – controversially – that it even allow short-term letting of empty properties.
The report recommends that “short-term letting should be regarded as a residential use” and thus should not trigger the building code requirements that hotels and tourist lodges have to contend with.
Jimmy Thomson, a Sydney-based writer, known as an apartment and strata-title living advocate, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that if the proposals are ever made law, apartment blocks will be thrown open to anyone who wants to run holiday lets.
“Our homes will become hotels, and the shared facilities we pay for will be rented to complete strangers who neither know nor care about the culture or standards of our buildings.”
Thomson said 60% of Airbnb rentals in Sydney were for whole homes rather than shared space.
“Almost 30% of hosts have more than one property,” he wrote. “Agencies like Airtasker have sprung up, where you can find someone to change the sheets, clean the unit and hand over the keys so that the ‘host’ never has to meet the ‘guest’.”
Accommodation Association of Australia chief executive, Richard Munro, said the industry took particular exception to empty residential properties being used for tourism accommodation.
“There are apartment buildings or groups of properties with the same owner which are offering vacant residential premises as a direct alternative to traditional hotels and other tourism accommodation businesses.”
Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) said that it had no major issues with a lessening of regulations for property owners who provided genuine share accommodation by offering a room in their house or apartment on an occasional basis.
But TAA called on the NSW Government to enforce regulations which already existed to restrict short-term letting of whole houses and apartments, to protect guests, residents and communities from commercial operators.
The TAA wants a specific time limit placed on short-term letting of non-resident properties, “which would allow owners to rent out their property while on holidays – but not as a commercial business.”
TAA welcomed the Committee’s recommendation designed to protect against the establishment of “party houses”, but added that the prospect of inner-city apartment blocks being turned into “quasi hotels” was a greater issue that required more transparent regulation.
TAA cited research showing that 37% of Airbnb listings in Sydney are available 365 days a year and are being operated as fully commercial property businesses, while InsideAirbnb estimated that 61% of Sydney listings were for full houses or apartments, involving no “sharing” at all.
Written by Peter Needham