Banning short-term rentals is not the best way to address problems faced when renting out the family home to visitors, a report recently tabled to the New South Wales Government says.
Councils across NSW have varied rules that in some cases allow homeowners to lease properties on websites like Airbnb and similar, but in other cases apply restrictions to such activity. The City of Sydney Council currently considers short-term rental accommodation as tourist and visitor accommodation, which is banned in the majority of residential areas.
Vanessa Vartto, who is one of 33,000 people across NSW who rent their properties through Airbnb, said that what started as a short-term plan to fund overseas trips had turned into a profitable business. She said her North Bondi property is booked year-round and as a host she would like to get some clarity around the legislation.
Ms Vartto said there is room for everyone in the market. “The beauty of Airbnb and the shared economy is that it actually creates more available accommodation options,” she said.
“You now have non-traditional accommodation options in areas that are outside of the hotel network, that are outside of the service apartment network and it really caters to for every sort of budget.”
She said the success of the practice depended on keeping the neighbors happy. “We keep our strata informed about what we’re doing,” she said. “I meet all of my guests and personally and I check them out so I know exactly what’s going on.”
Short-term rental should be defined, permitted: committee
The Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment and Planning spent 18 months delving into the industry and the report, titled Adequacy of the Regulation of short-term holiday letting in NSW, says the rental model is “operating successfully”.
It said short-term rental accommodation should be defined and permitted in the state.
“It is a longstanding use which generates a comparatively low level of complaints, and with the right regulation and compliance regime, can be permitted in residential areas,” it said.
In February, the City of Sydney made an inquiry submission recommending the number of days and people in a short-term rental properties be restricted.
It said while short-term letting could be a positive experience for tourists and residents, without a primary resident it was a de-facto commercial business that could have major impacts on neighbours and strata costs.
The City of Sydney currently use a system that allows them to investigate complaints, enter and search properties, obtain information, record evidence, and reportedly fine homeowners for non-compliance.
The parliamentary report said the complaints-driven compliance strategy was “thorough and comprehensive”.
“It concerns us that the powers may be little used and not well understood,” it said.
At the time of the parliamentary inquiry, there were 4,500 properties available in the City of Sydney through Airbnb.
In the year prior to March 2016, the council received 169 complaints relating to short-term and backpacker accommodation of which 45 mentioned Airbnb or Stayz.
Model not ‘genuine sharing’: tourism groups
Groups like Tourism Accommodation Australia echo the City of Sydney’s concerns that some short-term rental properties function like commercial hotels, where the homeowner is not present and the property is available year-round.
CEO Carol Giuseppi said the current model did not allow for “genuine sharing”.
“Our concern really is that apartment blocks are being turned into quasi-hotels and operating on an un-level playing field,” she said.
From research conducted on the Airbnb website, Ms Giuseppi said a significant proportion of homeowners were operating in this commercial fashion. “Our statistics point to 37 per cent of short-term accommodation in the city is available all year round and 61 per cent of people in the Sydney market are letting out full properties.”
But Airbnb Australia manager Sam McDonagh said the majority of hosts on his website made their properties available for 25 nights each year, on average, and generated about $4,500 of income.
“The overwhelming majority of hosts in Australia and in particular NSW, they share the homes they live in,” he said.
“The thing that we hear from all of our hosts is that many of the laws around home sharing are complex and outdated.”
The Government will respond to the committee recommendations by April next year.
Online Source: ABC.net.au.