Drawing the line on holiday lets

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There’s been a lot said and written about Airbnb-style short-term lets in apartment blocks – not least in this column – but where do you draw the line between enjoying the “sharing” economy and people just exploiting their investments (and the bits they share with neighbours) for their own profit.

Most people agree that renting out your entire apartment short-term as a business, in buildings that are zoned residential only, should be forbidden.  That’s before we even get into issues like income tax, commercial council rates and insurance.

But moving down the scale a little, how about the students who want to let out their unit when they go away during their long breaks?  They’re making a profit, for sure, but it’s really just to supplement their meagre finances.

How about people who rent a room in their flat, but they are still there on the premises?  It’s a great way for visitors to meet locals and get to know the city through their eyes.  But it’s also still a short-term let.

And what about house-swappers? These people go on to registries to swap homes for a few weeks for a holiday.  They aren’t making a profit but they are saving on hotel bills.  And they’re introducing into their unit block new people who may not know or care about by-laws or restrictions on their behavior.

And then there are the pet-sitters,  people who stay in your flat while you are away, water your plants, feed your cats and walk your dogs.  And while they may not be paying anything for the privilege, they are non-residents of the building, there for the short term.

It’s a question that has our politicians puzzled, despite enthusiastically embracing the broad concept of the “sharing economy”, if their endorsement of Uber-X taxi alternative is any sign.

“The shared economy is a reality that governments can’t ignore and there is a responsibility to put in place appropriate controls to enable it to grow without negatively impacting on others,” says Sydney MP Alex Greenwich.

“There is a difference between letting one’s home for a few weeks while travelling and turning apartments into hotels. We have to make sure the benefits of the shared economy are not hijacked by some to make a profit at the expense of neighbours.”

So where would you draw the line?  Have your say here,  on the Forum.

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