THE GOOD NEWS: BY-LAWS INEFFECTIVE WHEN IT COMES TO AIRBNB
In NSW the Owners Corporation Network, which likes to claim it speaks for strata residents across the State, has been lobbying Government to permit by-laws that would enable a group of owners to allow or ban short-term holiday rentals, regardless of the residential status on a strata property or across suburbs. Members of the Neighbours Not Strangers coalition – some of whom have worked on the issue of illegal holiday letting for more than a decade – should welcome the news from NSW Fair Trading that strata building by-laws on short-stay letting are ‘invalid’. A by-law should not alter the Determination of Development Consent declaring a suburb or a building presently classified as residential now open as a transit zone or unregulated hotel.
Airbnb’s Brent Thomas and Sam McDonagh claim ‘rights’ and talk of ‘discrimination’ if Airbnb and their corporate landlords are denied billions in income as they rob residents of access to homes. They choose to ignore all areas of legislation and those individuals and couples in freestanding, single-family dwellings who run licensed Bed & Breakfasts operations that do comply with legislation. All of us who live next to a short-term rental – be it in freestanding homes or strata - immediately understand exactly why we believe as we do: if you currently don't live next door to a short-term rental, talk your neighbours into renting out their properties on Airbnb or Stayz. Very soon you will stop worrying about your neighbours’ property rights and begin to wonder what the hell has happened to yours.
Domain’s Jimmy Thomson reports, “A spokesperson for City of Sydney Council – where residential letting is defined as three months or more – denied that they have backed off from pursuing non-compliant holiday lets”, yet a letter from CEO Monica Barone dated 21 June 2017 states: “…the City’s decision to no longer respond on issues of short-term letting in Sydney still stands”.
In contrast to information given to Domain, Randwick Council has been contacted in the past week on the issue of a particular residential building where it is reported that only one resident remains where 11 other apartments are now listed as short-term holiday lets – the resident fears that eviction will follow once their lease term has expired. Waverley, Woollahra, Shoalhaven, Snowy Valleys, Byron and Blue Mountain Councils too have been contacted by Neighbours Not Strangers, as they feature amongst the Local Government areas in NSW with some of the greatest number of homes lost to holiday letting.
NSW Land and Environment Court case law is crystal clear: mixing short-term tourist/visitor letting with permanent residents is “fundamentally incompatible” and the impacts on neighbours, “as the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates, is severe”.
A 2012 NSW Government Report, Making NSW No. 1 Again: Shaping Future Communities, (Minister Anthony Roberts) acknowledged the issues of “overcrowding and short-term rentals together with the demand for more affordable accommodation” with properties being used as “de facto backpacker hostel, boarding house or serviced apartments”. The Report goes on to highlight the “obvious fire safety implications.” Of note also: “Empowering schemes to set and enforce their own rules…may assist when it is only one or a small handful of lots involved. However, in some instances many lots may be used in this fashion, meaning the minority of owner/occupants affected will have little success in persuading the scheme to do anything about the problem. Therefore, an alternative approach could be to empower local councils to fine owners in breach of zoning, development consents, Local Environment Plans or safety laws…”
Local Councils have responsibility for enforcing legislation on all types of issues; to sit and hear representative after representative admit to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the adequacy of legislation covering short-term holiday letting that they have adopted voluntary moratoriums on taking action against those who breach our Planning and Zoning legislation leaves residents angered. There is already talk of ‘class action’ if residential suburbs/buildings are rezoned to allow holiday letting.
Ulrik Binzer from Host Compliance advises: “We currently analyse 22 (short-term letting) websites on a weekly basis and plan to expand the list to 50 plus in the next few months.”
Short-term holiday letting mixed with permanent residents is intolerable. Australia is "Airbnb's most penetrated market". Local Councils have no excuse: they should be mandated to enforce Planning and Zoning legislation. If Legislators won’t enforce, why are they being paid?
Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits
Neighbours not Strangers