Roundup: Gambling, porn, extremism … and Airbnb

It’s a funny old world when convincing enough people that they can make money by breaking the law persuades the lawmakers to change it.

Uber is the most obvious example, where convenience and self -interest have ridden roughshod over our traffic and taxi regulations (admittedly, provoking a shake-up and reduction in taxi charges).

The next cab off the rank (pun intended) will be short-term holiday letting (aka Airbnb). There’s a chance that, when new legislation comes in, people in NSW who bought homes zoned as residential-only by their local councils, may be told, “sorry, because the internet has changed everything, the old rules on which you based the largest purchase of your life no longer apply.”

Ah, the Internet, that game-changer that has brought us so many great social benefits such as the spread of pornography, gambling addiction, extremist indoctrination and recruitment, ‘fake news’, selective curating of real news so that you never need to read an alternative opinion or about anything that doesn’t affect you directly, and the ability for teenagers to hound their peers to suicide.

Bow down before the great WWW because it is new, and therefore it must be good. Of course, I’m not saying Airbnb or Stayz or any other short-term letting online agency are as evil or socially corrosive as any of the above, just that not everything that has happened thanks to the internet is a good thing.

I’ll give you my very simple solution to the Airbnb conundrum at the end of this post but in the meantime, watch out for my new


 

Here’s a selection of new questions and answers from the past week

  • Last week it was kids screaming in the swimming pool.  This week it’s skateboarding in the carpark.  What can you do? That’s HERE.
  • We need to give a proxy form for our AGM but don’t know who to give it to.  What do we do? That’s HERE.
  • The aircon in my rented property has broken down and the tenants want it fixed or replaced.  Do I have to do this? That’s HERE.
  • What do you do when residents take up visitor parking and committee officers are the worst offenders? That’s HERE (from Item 3).
  • Can you replace a dilapidated fence and then just ask the owner on the other side to pay half? That’s HERE.

internet-based business founded on the idea that civil disobedience is where the big bucks lie.

On the grounds that a lot of people like it, it’s only a bit illegal, it doesn’t do much harm and it’s said to do a lot of good (especially for cancer sufferers) –  oh, and I can make money from it –  I plan to set up an online marijuana distribution network. I might call it Dopazon.

Just kidding, officer.  I have no desire to break the law or, more significantly, get into a turf war with bikie gangs.

My own Airbnb experiment in Saigon came to an early end last week when a guilty conscience overwhelmed my delusion that I was “living like a local”. I was living among locals, that’s for sure, excluding the ones who would have been living in my flat had it not been converted to an Airbnb let.

I was just around the corner from the tourist hub of the Notre Dame cathedral and the fabulous colonial Gothic Central Post Office. I had to squeeze past tiny noodle shops and parked scooters to get to my abode.  This was real – except it wasn’t.

I had honestly thought there was a chance I would be living in a separate section of someone’s house. In fact, I was in a self-contained unit with two floors, two bathrooms, a study or second bedroom and enough space to accommodate a decent sized Vietnamese family.

The flat was stylishly decorated and had three aircon units – three more than the family crammed into a similar space downstairs.

I should have done my homework more diligently, but it became glaringly obvious that I had displaced locals, rather than joined them, when not one of my new neighbours cracked a smile of greeting while I was there.  This is significant: Vietnamese are among the friendliest people in the world.

I have to say, when I pulled the plug and moved into an hotel (where I should have been to begin with) the “host” could not have been more helpful.  The money for the unused nights was refunded immediately – I got the email from Paypal within an hour of me phoning the host to say I was moving out.

Airbnb still got their cut, though, of course.  It was the local host who lost out – even though she didn’t need to.  She even organised and paid for an Uber to take me to my hotel.  Irony upon irony.

Meanwhile, as it sifts through the holiday letting agencies spin cycle of misinformation, the angry strata owners’ rants, the academic studies that prove holiday lets affect rents and availability (and the sponsored surveys that say they don’t) the NSW government is in a pickle.

Having discovered that they forgot to give the Civil Administration Tribunal (NCAT) the power to impose financial penalties on by-law breaches, it faces three (for them) unpalatable choices.

They could allow apartment owners to pass by-laws saying whether or not they want holiday letting in their buildings, albeit knowing they have no real comeback against badly behaved hosts and guests because they can’t be fined.

Or, since without fines it would be a free-for-all anyway, they could stand back and watch while some of the best and worst blocks in the city are turned into de facto hotels during the summer months.

Or they could just tell local councils to enforce their own zoning, which they are collectively and criminally neglecting right across Sydney, waiting for the government to do their job for them.

Having wrestled with this for more than a year now, I have finally come to the conclusion that there is only one fair and equitable solution.

The default must be no holiday lets in apartment blocks currently zoned residential only, unless owners pass a special ‘super resolution’ (75 percent of all owners) to allow holiday lets.

And please don’t give me that tired nonsense about the section of the law that says you can’t interfere with owners’ rights.

That principle went out the window when they allowed 75 per cent of your neighbours to sell your apartment from under you.

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