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An Airbnb landlord writes that she’s at her “wits end”. She “sleeps 12” but lives 500 kms away from the house. She “personally would not go to a holiday house if they had cameras”, but wants to start counting “guests & checking parties”. One ‘tip’ she received from another ‘host’: “No blokes…blokes lie through their teeth – fishing weekend = getting smashed, golfing weekend = strippers”. Another ‘host’ writes: “I also find middle aged women after a few bevies can be really loud…our self entitled neighbour is harassing me.” Yes, what of the ‘self entitled’ neighbours, whose home lives are being destroyed?

On 16 April Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told CNBC that Airbnb will have to add millions of new hosts to accommodate guests, as travel picks up again following the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, millions of new ‘hosts’ means millions and millions more homes listed across Airbnb’s platform. During the interview, not a word was mentioned of housing, or where the additional Airbnb rentals are coming from. Expedia, which also operates under the Stayz banner in Australia, is ramping up its marketing – ‘Expedia Banks on Biggest Campaign in Years…to Spur Travel Rebound’. And Stayz ‘sponsored’ advertisements appear daily on platforms such as Facebook.

As if perfectly coordinated, 10 days ago NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes published the gazetted State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) Amendment (Short-term Rental Accommodation) 2021. Among the ‘General requirements’, the legislation provides an ‘exempt development’ pathway for any dwelling that has been “lawfully constructed to be used for the purposes of residential accommodation”, other than a boarding house, a group home, a hostel, a rural workers’ dwelling, seniors housing, etc. Any home is acceptable however one is not permitted to short-term rent refuge or crisis accommodation provided by a public or local authority – Department of Communities and Justice, the New South Wales Land and Housing Corporation or the Aboriginal Housing Office, or any other body funded wholly or partly by the Commonwealth or the State. If a dwelling is classified under the Building Code of Australia as a class 1(b)* or class 2-9, the dwelling must have a current fire safety certificate or fire safety statement. * Noted, a class 1(a) single family free standing dwelling is not mentioned - the wording of the legislation is confusing and seemingly conflicted, to say the least.

When Director of Housing Policy, Department of Planning’s Sandy Chappel was asked about Fire Safety requirements, she responded verbally that no annual fire safety inspection of short-term rentals would be required. ‘Trust’ will suffice. Apparently one pays a $65 fee to State Government to obtain exemption to operate an Airbnb. A list of questions has been put to Ms Chappel; we await her response.

Note. In addition to the requirements set out, the Policy includes a statement on adjoining owners’ property rights…the applicable common law and other legislative requirements for approvals, licences, permits and authorities still apply. For example –

(a) Section 137A of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 provides that a by-law may prohibit a lot being used for the purposes of a short-term rental accommodation arrangement, and

(b) Conditions of development consent, or a lease, may impose additional restrictions.

This is perhaps one glimmer of hope for some: those whose homes are in class 2 residential flat buildings in the City of Sydney may find that the Determination of Development Application, issued by the Council of the City of Sydney on their residential strata building, may include a clause such as this:

‘Restriction on Residential Development’

(a) The accommodation portion of the building must be used as permanent residential accommodation only and not for the purpose of a hotel, motel, serviced apartment, private hotel, boarding house, tourist accommodation or the like…

(b) All approved residential units in the building must be either owner occupied or occupied by a tenant with a residential lease under the Residential Tenancy Act 1987…

(c) A restrictive covenant is to be created pursuant to Section 88E of the Conveyancing Act, 1919, restricting any change of use of (residential) levels from residential as defined in the Central Sydney Local Environmental Plan 1996…

A former NSW State MP chairs one well-known City of Sydney strata building. Land and Environment Court Orders ban the chairman and his cronies’ “Illegal Use of Premises” – short-term rentals. In his building, requests to place Motions on meeting agendas, seeking 75% of Owners’ agreement to pass a by-law banning short-term rentals, are refused. It would seem that residents in the building may still be able to fall back and rely on the Determination of Development Application to protect them from another short-term rental tsunami.

We very much recommend that residents seek legal advice on this issue.

In 2013 Bega Valley Council changed its Local Environment Plan (Clause 6.11) to permit Airbnb-type rentals across its local government area. So bad has the housing situation become, the Mayor is now asking if homes might perhaps be rented to residents. (ABC South Coast report.) And, north of our State border: ‘We have to be brutally honest’: Residents told to relocate or live in a car ‘for the rest of your life’. (ABC News.)

While NSW Residents Advocacy Groups were excluded, Australian Short-Term Rental Association Vice Chair Joan Bird tells followers she was engaged with the NSW Department of Planning’s industry consultancy process on short-term rentals. On Social Media Ms Bird writes that Planning’s changes to legislation are in fact “so much better than what was proposed in the draft documents”. What the NSW State Government has done is make the commercial short-term rental of housing ‘exempt development’ – landlords can list as many homes as they like across as many platforms as they like, making it impossible for any analysis and monitoring of the scope of their commercial profiteering or use of housing stock.

Let’s hope that the Members of Parliament and Legislators, who have made this situation possible, find their home lives completely and utterly disrupted by the likes of Airbnb, Expedia and their hundreds of competitors.

Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits

Neighbours not Strangers


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