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Last Thursday, 02 April 2020, Jane Hearn, Deputy Chair of the Owners Corporation Network (OCN) which represents a significant number of Strata Residents in NSW, wrote to the NSW Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard MP. The correspondence states that on 31 March, the OCN received advice from the NSW Government that Public Health (COVID 19 Restrictions on Gather and Movement Order 2020) [NSW] will have the effect of stopping short-term rentals. Independent legal advice obtained by the OCN does not concur:

“…there is nothing in this order that prevents people short-term letting their properties, or people moving in to short-term lets during this time. In fact, there is an express exemption from the restriction on public gatherings for any gatherings that may be necessary when moving to a new residence. In addition, no part of this order applies to restrict movements within apartment buildings, which are private spaces, not public spaces. Even the restriction on operating pools and gyms is a restriction on public pools and gyms, not private.”

The OCN points out that the new section 137A, Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (NSW) does not deal with tenants on, say, long-term residential leases subletting, or resident owners short-term letting for what may in fact be most of the year and, in reality, the government’s actions “heighten the amenity, nuisance and hazard risk to all residents at all times and most especially during COVID-19”. The letter to Minister Hazzard captures the perilous state in which NSW residents find themselves. Please do read the OCN’s letter.

Minister Brad Hazzard is the same Minister who, on 01 March 2012 (ref: 12/04604), endorsed a NSW Holiday Rental Code of Conduct. In the intervening eight years, there has not been a single successful application of this Code. This coming Friday, 10 April, the NSW State Parliament was set to commence a new ‘Code of Conduct’, however, under a cloak of secrecy, it appears that on 13 March Parliament repealed this legislation. Why? Was this, finally, recognition of NSW Land and Environment case law, or simply acknowledgement that such a Code is deemed by the Court and residents, and according to legal advice, unenforceable? Whatever the reason, our State Government would appear to be acting in complete accord with the express wishes of the US$ 26 billion Airbnb.

In Sydney, many of the areas of highest Airbnb penetration also see high volumes of retired and elderly residents in apartment blocks ie, those most vulnerable in terms of COVID-19.

With government restrictions on gatherings in place, why is State Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres applauding Airbnb; this company’s action can only but be described as reckless under current circumstances. A quick search of Airbnb properties in and around the Sydney CBD and other suburbs shows the availability for four-night Easter group accommodation - 10+ clients in 120 apartments/houses. How many homes are already booked? No one knows. Despite Airbnb’s non-disclosure of exact locations, we can locate these properties, so why do authorities allow the listing of these homes?

117 Campbell Street, Surry Hills – 10 guests - 4 nights @ $3,827.49 – landlord has 38 Airbnb listings

68 Drumalbyn Road, Bellevue Hills – 10 guests – 4 nights @ $19,986.60 – landlord has 50 Airbnb listings

373-375 Bulwara Road, Ultimo – 12 guests – 4 nights @ $2,472.33 – landlord has 17 Airbnb listings

6a High Street, Millers Point – 16 guests – 4 nights @ 4,390.12 – landlord has 13 Airbnb listings

119 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills – 10 guests - 4 nights @ $1,964.00 – landlord has 23 Airbnb listings

166 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst – 10 guests – 4 nights @ $1,587.38 – landlord lists under different names 97 homes

42 Drumalbyn Road, Bellevue Hill – 10 guests – 4 nights @ 6,469.65 – landlord has 2 Airbnb listings

940 Elizabeth Street, Zetland – 10 guests – 4 nights @ $1,686.73 – landlord has 16 Airbnb listings

11 Windmill Street, Millers Point – 10 guests – 4 nights @ 1,545.00 – landlord lists this single property

42 Argyle Place, Millers Point – 10 guests – 4 nights @ $3,570.44 – landlord has 8 Airbnb listings

17 Gowrie Street, Newtown – 10 guests – 4 nights @ $1,617.42 – landlord has 6 Airbnb listings

65 Boronia Road, Bellevue Hills - 10 guests – 4 nights @ $13,707.43 – landlord has 147 Airbnb listings

1123 Barranjoey Road, Palm Beach – 16 guests – 4 nights @ $12,280.78 – landlord lists this Airbnb property only

271 Whale Beach Road, Whale Beach – 16 guests – 4 nights @ $10,790.45 – landlord has 42 Airbnb listings

108 Roscoe Street, Bondi Beach – 16 guests – 4 nights @ $6,661.43 – landlord has 6 Airbnb listings

Along with Airbnb and ASTRA, Stayz/Expedia has its hand out for government bailouts, while remaining almost silent on the issue of legislated lockdowns. The simply solution for this group is to place their housing stock on the residential rental market.

Airbnb continues to facilitate non-residential and non-essential stays in strata buildings and residential neighbourhoods - for the privileged to ‘escape’ COVID-19 hotspots to ‘safer locations’ while increasing the risk to residents. Shut down Airbnb!


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