WHAT AIRBNB LANDLORDS ARE DOING TO PROFIT FROM THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison imposed a 14-day self-isolation period on all international arrivals into Australia due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak – the directive being effective as of Sunday, 16 March 2020. Returning Australian Citizens and Residents must enter into home quarantine for 14 days. And just when it appeared that Airbnb’s business model was on the point of collapse, it has managed to turn a public health directive into a marketing and business opportunity.
The Sydney Morning Herald and Domain have published an article – ‘What Airbnb hosts are doing to ride out the COVID-19 crisis’ - featuring Melbourne-based Beyond a Room with 124 ‘Coronavirus Friendly’ residential apartments listed via Airbnb. The Domain’s Reporter was asked to confirm if Airbnb paid her for her article: “No.” Or whether her Airbnb contacts matched the strict protocols of the licensed regulated serviced apartment sector. We are still awaiting a response.
All serviced apartments, hotels, motels and other types of short-term accommodation come under Federal Accommodation food services industry legislation and protocols, last updated 17 February 2020 with a special link to coronavirus (COVID-19) information. This Federal legislation covers risk assessment and planning, insurance, workplace health and safety, emergency management etc. Listed too are the key ‘differences between a business and a hobby’ along with tax, insurance and legal obligations. Strict protocols are in place.
Accredited accommodation providers follow protocols to protect their staff as well as guests. In terms of the coronavirus (COVID-1) there must be full disclosure from all guests; specified cleaning protocols for various levels of risk (risk of exposure, actually exposed, diagnosed); serviced apartments must be ventilated and left empty for 24 hours; bed linen is sent to bio-hazard cleaning facilities; groceries are left at the door; garbage bagged and handled for disposal etc. All such operations take place in buildings constructed and certified for short-term occupation under National Construction Codes – commercial use must not occur as ‘mixed use’ alongside those in residential dwellings or apartments. Where such commercial operations do take place ‘under the same roof’, short-term guest and residents are clearly segregated; separate entrances and lifts, with guests and residents accommodated on different levels of a building.
Now many of the Airbnb properties being advertised as ‘Coronavirus Friendly’ offer to accommodate more than two persons per bedroom, provide easy all-hours self-check-in, use of communal laundries, vague references to cleaners using ‘coronavirus liquids’, plus access to all communal property facilities, such as pools and gyms.
Jimmy Thomson writes: “…with the emergency powers at their disposal, the state governments should be banning “isolation” stays of non-residents in apartment blocks right now. Why non-residents? Because permanent residents are more likely to consider their actions before they risk infecting their neighbours, while we know from long and bitter experience that people who have no long-term relationship with a building or its community can sometimes behave very selfishly.”
Apparently the NSW Government will next week introduce another ‘Code of Conduct’ for short-term rental industry participants. The NSW Land and Environment Court judges such measures “would not provide an effective means of addressing amenity impacts that occur”, or the “fundamental incompatibility” of mixing transients with permanent residents. And it is understood that by 10 April, State Parliament will set aside all other Land and Environment Court case law precedents dealing with short-term rentals, plus important legal documents and zoning under which NSW Residents purchased homes, and allow Airbnb rentals in every resident dwelling state-wide. If those in strata buildings can induce 75 % of owners to pass a special by-law, some short-term rentals may be blocked. What is Airbnb doing?
Airbnb, Stayz, Expedia, Booking.com and other online booking platforms are now risking the lives of NSW Residents.