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At the City Extra Restaurant at Sydney’s Circular Quay advertisements say there is a Key Exchange for Airbnb platform users. Similar Key Exchange boxes are to be found dotted around Sydney and Melbourne. Airbnb clients can enter a convenience store, hotel or cafes where these Key Exchanges have been installed and pick up security swipes and keys for nearby residential buildings, thus bypassing all security measures in place for the protection of home owners and tenants.

One block from the Circular Quay ‘Key Exchange’ is a residential building. Prior to NSW Land and Environment Court Orders prohibiting illegal short-term rentals, a cohort of State MPs and senior Legal Practitioners were profiting handsomely from ‘ghost hotel’ operations. Following legal advice, Resident Owners withstood enormous pressure and threats of litigation in order to assist the City of Sydney Council in its application to the Land and Environment Court. Now Airbnb is operating out of the same building. Senior Staff at Airbnb’s Sydney Office – Brent Thomas, Derek Nolan and Susan Wheeldon – have ignored correspondence from apartment owners requesting that the illegal Airbnb properties be delisted. Via the NSW Department of Fair Trading, Airbnb has advised: ”Airbnb are an online platform and do not own, operate, manage or control accommodation and cannot take any action.” In other countries and jurisdictions, Airbnb delists residential dwellings where such listings are an "illegal use of premises". Here, Airbnb staff are thumbing their noses at the proprietary rights of residential title deed holders and at our NSW Land and Environment Court. NSW Fair Trading will reportedly assist Airbnb platform users when payments and refunds are withheld but with breaches of Court Orders, Development Approvals and Occupation Certificates, Fair Trading sends residents back to grapple with the Legal System.

NSW MP Stuart Ayres was Minister for Tourism and Major Events during a Parliamentary Inquiry into the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting. At no time did the Minister or his Department disclose DestinationNSW’s links with Expedia/Stayz and Airbnb. The Hon Stuart Ayres again finds himself Minister for Tourism and, despite the issue of short-term rentals still being unresolved, Ayres entered into a partnership with Airbnb back in June 2019. Stuart Ayres makes headlines again today; the SMH reports a $24 million sports grant that became a new function centre and car park built by the Penrith Panthers.

In Toronto, Police found “stored video of people engaged in various activities in the bedroom, including one man masturbating on the bed…” And the Court’s judgment? The privacy of Airbnb ‘host’ Michael Chow, who placed a hidden camera in the unit, was breached. The Airbnb guest of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck’s accused killer saw him light the bonfire in the backyard where her charred remains were discovered, while his neighbour said it was something he had never smelled before. Airbnb has begun restricting some bookings from under-25s in Canada in an effort to prevent so-called ‘party houses’ spiralling into violence – difficult, given that Airbnb does not verify the details of platform users or the actual existence of properties. And on the Gold Coast, a millionaire Airbnb party house owner admits using his $2,000/ight mansion for sex-exhibition parties. Think Airbnb is great? Wait till one opens up next to you.

It is expected that the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will soon release its short-term rental accommodation framework. It will be interesting to see how the DPIE manages to circumvent Federal Building Codes, Fire Safety standards and Residents’ proprietary rights. DestinationNSW, Airbnb, Expedia and senior State MPs obviously expect a green light to their use housing for commercial hotel use. One questions whether the Hotel Industry will now make its voice heard on this issue, given the major hit the Industry has suffered due to bushfires and the corona virus. And who will stand up for NSW homeowners and tenants?

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