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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbnb’s newsroom has published a media statement advising that it is developing a new “Cleaning Protocol for hosts, with guidance from the former US Surgeon General…” Airbnb will “encourage” its landlords to “commit and adopt” enhanced cleaning practices. Landlords can opt out with a ‘vacancy period’ between stays – Airbnb will automatically block bookings for 72 hours between clients, with the landlords themselves waiting 24 hours before entering the property after any client vacates. Comments on social media from Airbnb’s platform users bemoan the fact that once again Airbnb has gone to the Media with such a declaration without considering currently confirmed bookings plus assuming that landlords are happy to leave properties vacant with no income during such pauses. There are of course those Airbnb ‘hosts’ who are suggesting that this ‘cleaning protocol’ is unenforceable plus one can simply circumvent Airbnb’s ‘vacancy period’ by continuing to spread bookings across multiple platforms. In terms of 'pledges', in November 2019 Airbnb pledged to verify all 7 million of its properties after news websites found a series of scams. Airbnb also pledged to ban ‘party houses’ after an additional five clients died in one of many shootings. Airbnb pledged again to fight racial discrimination and train its ‘hosts’ not to be racists. Airbnb pledges many things to many individuals and authorities, while its terms and policies specifically exclude it being held accountable for all.

In NSW and elsewhere, Astra Apartments claims it offers over 650 “corporate apartments, perfect for an extended stay”. Its reservation system provides “instant confirmations for long-term stays” while in fact one can book 3-night stays. And, “all Astra Apartments are in residential buildings…” Astra also claims it takes the COVID-19 situation very seriously: “...the safety and well-being of our guests has always been…our highest priority.” Astra’s International guests are offered the opportunity to have a car meet them at the airport and transport them to their apartment. All arriving guest are recommended to bring a face mask, plastic gloves and hand sanitiser. Guests are met at the front door of a building and “immediately taken up to their apartment”. As of 24 March their Wollongong representative was still sprouting 'self-isolation’ rentals. No mention whatsoever is made of the safety and well-being of other residents in the residential buildings where Astra operates. Astra’s corporate apartments in NSW residential properties are located at the following addresses:

2a Help Street Chatswood 809 Pacific Highway Chatswood

69-73 Elizabeth Drive Liverpool 1 Saunders Close, Macquarie Park

225 Miller Street North Sydney 1 Lucinda Avenue Kellyville

140 Church Street Parramatta 7-9 Lethbridge Street Penrith

46 Walker Street Rhodes 15 Atchison Street St Leonards

245 Bourke Street Surry Hills 10 Village Place Kirrawee

130 Elizabeth Street Sydney 718 George Street Sydney

3 Hosking Place Sydney 355 Kent Street Sydney

361 Kent Street Sydney 204a/65-67 Brunker Road Broadmeadow

111/25-29 Llewellyn Street Merewether 12 Bellevue Street Newcastle

75 Shortland Esplanade Newcastle 41 Crown Street Wollongong

The NSW Department of Fair Trading’s website now provides a summary of ‘Changes to short-term rental accommodation’; the leading paragraph: “Short-term rental accommodation options have changed greatly over the past few years and new laws find a balance for all participants and others affected.”

One with decades of experience in NSW Real Estate and Strata Management has written of this Fair Trading statement:

“BOLLOCKS; democracy at its worst. The STL (short-term letting) lobby succeeded in persuading the pollies to effectively reverse previous land title legislation for “residential only” as per the Development Consent, and the permitted-use bought by the purchasers, (thereby) permitting STLs - a business the same as hotels and illegal under the Development Consent - in ‘residential only’ zones. Worse, legislating the requirement that an Owners Corporation must now pass a special resolution ‘opt out’ bylaw requiring at least 75% vote to prohibit (some) STLs...”

Do take the time to read the Department of Fair Trading’s blurb. It clearly warns: “There will also be changes to the planning laws…and new ‘exempt’ and ‘complying' approval pathways that allow short-term rental accommodation within day limits." And as all Councils are refusing to enforce residential zoning, each and every NSW Resident will may soon find him/herself pitted against those neighbours who “penetrate” our residential buildings and suburbs with short-term rentals.

Know that the proprietary rights of NSW Residents are being retrospectively and dramatically altered, with the winners being Airbnb, Stayz/Expedia et al. The ‘Certainty of Title’ of one’s home will be consigned to history, fault of our State politicians. We are wondering how much Airbnb has to date tipped into the coffers of NSW Political parties, influencers and individual MPs?

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