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A Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order appears to be no deterrent to those using Airbnb’s platform to flout this Ministerial directive.  Without doubt, Airbnb is aware of bookings, deposits, payments, reviews and Media during these extraordinary times – clearly aiding and abetting all this illegal activity.

The Daily Telegraph reports on Monday a teenage girl plummeted from the 6th floor of the Wollongong Crown Apartments, falling first onto a concrete awning before dropping again and landing face down on the street below.  It is also reported that the victim was under the influence of illicit substances at the time, with a resident of the apartment block saying they believed the apartment she fell from was an Airbnb rental; a neighbouring resident provided this Airbnb link.  According to media reports, one neighbour saw the young girl fall:  “It was horrific – I saw a lot of it…The screams were just horrible.” 

In Byron Bay and elsewhere many accredited accommodation businesses have closed due to COVID-19.  This hasn’t stopped those with residential premises continuing to rent homes to partygoers.  Police were called at 1:00am last Saturday to a large group at a Bangalow Road Airbnb – although we’ve been told by neighbours that the Police failed to attend. 

Sydney-based Airbnb Management firm MaisonNets currently lists 105 homes as short-term rentals – 68 homes in NSW.  The Company uses a number of platforms and on Airbnb, multiple staff members list its properties under separate profiles, which makes identification of their total housing stock difficult.  Two days ago a ‘call out’ to Airbnb Hosts in Sydney – “only looking for a short-term rental” – saw MaisonNets’ founder step up to offer “something in Camperdown”. (See photo below.)

Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson MP wrote today:  “…NSW has faced an escalating situation with COVID-19 in recent months.  The developing situation comes on top of the impacts of bushfires and will continue to have a significant impact on the accommodation sector...a ‘Code of Conduct’…register…planning instruments…an exact date to be determined as appropriate…”  Notably the Minister failed to make mention of the illegal use of residential housing by the likes of Airbnb and other Online Travel Agents and their continued operations during this global pandemic.  

When will our Ministers and MPs recognise the distress caused by short-term rentals to neighbouring residents?


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