If you thought the battle to restrict Airbnb-style short-term rentals from apartment buildings that don’t want them was over in NSW, you may be in for a shock.
The new laws allowing owners corporations to pass by-laws banning short-term holiday lets (STHL) that came in last week have some fairly massive holes in them.
In fact, according to a fact sheet issued by the OCN on its website there are more loopholes in the legislation than in a drunk’s knitting.
For a start, there is no restriction on the number of nights when you can rent a room under genuine “sharing” – where the host is in situ during the rental. In the absence of electronic monitoring, it’s going to be impossible to prove when a host decides to just lie about their living arrangements (not that anyone would do that).
Maybe the app being developed to monitor coronavirus contacts could be adapted to track down “resident hosts” who live somewhere else entirely. Joking!
Whole home rentals, where the host isn’t present, have been capped at 180 days a year in the Greater Sydney Region but there’s no limit on the number of nights outside of Sydney, unless the local council applies for the lower 180-day limit. One exception is Byron Shire Council which can apply to the Minister for a 90-day cap.
To facilitate this conversion of residential homes into commercial holiday properties, the Draft State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) for Short-Term Rental Accommodation (STRA) will render existing development consent regulations prohibiting un-hosted short-term letting unenforceable.
Not only that, whole home rentals of 21 days (or successive periods of 21 days) in Sydney will not be included in the 180 day cap. And STHL hosts will be able to apply to their Local Council for approval to have the whole-homes cap lifted anyway.
Meanwhile homes intended for people on lower incomes that were supposed to be protected under the Affordable Rental Housing SEPP will not be protected. Yep, that’s right – you can get approval to build affordable homes and then put them straight on the market as holiday lets.
The list goes on. The code of conduct has been “shelved” and the proposed register – the most effective way of ensuring compliance – is nowhere to be seen. Even if it does appear, it will be run by the industry because self-certification has been such a huge success in NSW (and STHL operators have proved themselves to have such impeccable honesty and integrity).
Off the peg by-law
But it’s not all bad news. For the past year, two OCN board members, both lawyers, and an outside legal adviser have been working on a one-size-fits-all “no holiday letting” by-law.
Previously available only to members for a very competitive $200 (plus GST), OCN is now throwing in a membership for non-members who buy the by-law.
Not only that, if required, one of the authors of the by-law will be available for a phone call to explain how it works and what you need to do to to get it on your books. They will also advise on how to get round the restrictions on strata meetings that were gloatingly and inaccurately cited by Airbnb last week as a way of preventing the by-law being passed. You can find out more about the by-law HERE.
Fight for your home
Despite the introduction of the new laws, and the temporary shrinking of the holiday letting market, thanks to the coronavirus, OCN is not giving up the fight to keep holiday lets out of residential buildings where they’re not wanted.
“Over recent years, illegal [holiday letting] that breaches development consent conditions, by-laws and residential zoning has been facilitated by global platforms, like Airbnb,” says its fact sheet.
“The social impact on residents has already been enormous. Short term letting hollows out communities and enables commercial “Hosts” to dominate strata committees, displacing resident owners and tenants and preventing residents from dealing with loss of security, amenity and extra costs.
“The volume and intensity of transient occupation in strata schemes is degrading the quality of life for residents, the value of their homes and impacting on costs. The loss of housing and pressure on vacancy rates has been well documented.”
That’s why OCN developed the low-cost by-law. But what about those schemes already dominated by “hosts” where the necessary 75 per cent vote to pass the by-law might never be achieved.
“OC will continue to pursue the short-term letting issue for schemes unable to adopt the by-law,’ says the fact sheet. Interesting.
And with so many holiday let flats being converted back to residential letting, there could be no better time to fight for the right that’s been taken from you, to live in a home rather than a hostel.