Bans, charges and registration mooted for holiday lets

The State government will go back to the drawing board on holiday letting when it issues its options paper, which industry insiders say is likely to land tomorrow (Friday 21).

As exclusively revealed earlier this year, the Government has already effectively stepped away from most of the findings of the Coure report into holiday letting legislation.

Instead of the 12 largely pro-holiday letting proposals that came out of the inquiry, the state government will present a series of broad-stroke proposals for public discussion, which will range from restrictions on holiday lets in apartment blocks to registration of homes used for short-stay letting such as Airbnb.

Although they are not law, they will show the way the government is thinking. We have been told by a source who preferred not to be named that the key elements proposed for discussion are likely to be:

  • Self-regulation and codes of conduct for the industry.
  • New powers, including by-laws, allowing apartment block owners corporations (body corporates) to restrict and regulate short-term letting in residential buildings.
  • Owners corporations being given the power to charge holiday letting “hosts” additional levies to cover increased wear and tear and security for apartment blocks.
  • A registration scheme, similar to that in European cities like Barcelona, whereby holiday lets must be registered with local authorities.
  • A review of planning regulations with a view to redefining “residential-only” to possibly allow for the partial letting of rooms in residential homes.

It was the concept of home sharing – popularised by Airbnb – that led to home owners being threatened with million-dollar council fines for running illegal bed and breakfasts.  That in turn prompted the inquiry last year chaired by Nationals MP Mark Coure.

But its findings issued in April this year garnered only lukewarm approval from the relevant ministries – Planning and Innovation and Better Regulation – with nine of the 12 recommendations receiving only “qualified support”.

The general view was that online holiday letting had grown so quickly that the report was out of date before it was published.

So it will be back to square one for holiday letting giants like Airbnb and Stayz who will once again be given a chance to present their cases.

However, the landscape has changed significantly with the exponential growth of online holiday letting, increased public awareness and active and organised opposition from apartment owners’ groups making for a much livelier debate.

Significantly, Stayz has broken ranks with Airbnb, teaming up with the Tourism Association of Australia to seek restrictions on holiday letting in inner cities while supporting short-stay letting in traditional holiday areas in the country and on the coast.

Airbnb has consistently reiterated its belief that everyone has the right to do as they wish with their homes, regardless of where they are or what kind of home it is, house or apartment.

In releasing the Coure report in April, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean promised that “an options paper with approaches to implement a whole of government framework will be released for consultation.”

They then called for more consultation with key stakeholders to get a more up-to-date picture.

The recent declaration by Fair Trading that any strata by-laws banning short-term letting were invalid, will doubtless figure significantly in the coming discussions.

Usually, submissions to a discussion document like this will be open for two or three months before the findings are distilled into a Bill for debate in Parliament.

That means there is unlikely to be any changes in the laws before this time next year, at the earliest.

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