AIRBNB SHORT-TERM RENTALS – THINGS GO FROM BAD TO HORRENDOUS
The worst fears of residents in a Brisbane apartment building have come to fruition. Despite their objections to an application from certain amongst them to Brisbane City Council that units in their Dock Street residential building be permitted to operate as short-term holiday rentals, on 17 July 2020 Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner wrote: “(Council’s) approval over this site only applies to the property owners specifically included in the application. Owners in this building that were not included in the application retained their ability to occupy their property as ‘owner occupiers’.” It’s truly kind of Council to permit residential Title Deed holders to still use their property as their homes. And although Brisbane City Council has given preliminary approval that some short-term rentals can operate at the River Plaza building, nothing yet has been finalised – thus holiday/tourist rentals still remain an unlawful use.
And then, in the words of one River Plaza owner/occupier, “on Tuesday night one of these short-term rentals brought domestic violence to River Plaza in a horrendous way”. 9News reports that Police established a crime scene after a one-year-old baby boy was taken to hospital in a serious condition. Neighbouring residents were not permitted to leave or enter their apartments, with Police camped in the hallway from Sunday to Tuesday night. Residents report: “Police were still busy with the room yesterday but the cleaners were getting the room ready. No matter what happens, the money machine must go on. Guess the Mayor’s reply that short-term accommodation (STA) is all good wasn’t (written) while he was in the hospital with a one-year-old child who was the victim of violence.” The residential building at 21 Dock Street South Brisbane is now listed on multiple booking platforms such as Bookings.com, with the building manager reportedly pushing to be the main letting agent for tourists and visitors. Resident homeowners are appalled.
With zero bookings since 13 March 2020, one small, accredited accommodation provider in the City of Sydney Local Government Area sought a rate reduction from ‘commercial’ to ‘residential’ rates for the current period. Council responded, stating: “The category for rating purposes is determined by approved use of the land. And the use must be legitimate use that is permitted in accordance with Council’s Local Environmental Plans and covered by relevant consents where necessary…” No financial relief was granted.
As at 20 August 2020, data from Inside Airbnb indicates there are 7,628 Airbnb listings (down from 9,592 on 09/05/2020) in the City of SydneyCouncil area. Council refuses requests from ratepayers and residents to enforce residential zoning so one estimates that Council Administrators are levying ‘residential’ rates only on 7,628 illegal Airbnb properties.
Airbnb is providing the Australian Taxation Office with the details of all properties listed on its platform. And across the Sydney Metropolitan Area there are presently 31,390 Airbnb listings. Why aren’t our Councils seeking the same data that Airbnb and others are providing to the ATO? This would immediately allow Councils to zero in and enforce zoning restrictions plus levy commercial rates on Airbnb and other short-term rental operators. Ah, but no. Councils won’t do that. Could it be that many of our Council administrators are themselves dipping into the illegal short-term rental money trough?