Business booms in blocking illegal Airbnbs

What would most Flatchatters change first about their apartment blocks if they had three magic wishes?

Make it harder for people to let out their entire flat through Airbnb, was the not-very- surprising response from almost half of the 99 of you who clicked on this survey. (Hey, we never said it would be either scientific, authoritative or comprehensive).

The problem falls into three categories, the first being where the majority of owners either want short-term holiday lets (STHLs) in their block or don’t care that they’re there.

The second type is where the owners in the building don’t want them in their block but don’t know how to stop them.

And the third is people who don’t even realise that their rental property is being sub-let as an STHL, until they get angry letters from their strata committee.

For the latter two situations, Even though as we often say, there is no such body as StrataKops, help is at hand through a company called BnbGuard which now monitors over 5000 properties, mostly in Sydney and Melbourne.

“A lot of buildings are worried about short-term letting companies like Airbnb, and have issues like security, uninsured damage and thefts,” co-founder Reuben Schwarz told the Sydney Morning Herald recently.

“A lot of people just take the money, but don’t check what’s happening in their apartments.”

BnbGuard tracks short-term lets and even reveals apartments masked by fake pictures or listings, then advises committees or individual owners on how to shut them down.

It’s a business with increasing demand, with clients growing 25 percent every month  since they launched in January. That’s a five-fold increase in eight months but it’s hardly surprising given the growth in holiday rentals over the past few years.

In one block at Bondi Beach, 30 per cent of apartments were short-term rentals, Mr Schwarz told the SMH, and in popular areas such as Sydney’s eastern suburbs, more than 50 per cent of the lets were being operated by tenants.

BnbGuard also has contracts with a number of local councils across the country. In Victoria, the council in Mornington Peninsula Shire Council is to charge short-term letters a fee to fund security patrols.

It’s one of the added-cost factors of the type that BnbGuard suggests to undermine profits – a serious disincentive to commercial STHL hosts. Legal action or ‘guerilla tactics’ such as cancelling swipe cards if security has been compromised, are other possibilities.

“It’s a shame that people’s communities are being undermined and prevented from growing because of these problems,” he added.

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