Podcast: Airbnb update as holiday let regs put on ice


Elsewhere in this post

Sometimes you can be just too efficient.

There we were with the NSW government’s proposed regulations on short-term letting hot off the printer, plus industry responses and reactions from apartment owners … then the Government panicked in the face of widespread complaints from all directions and put them on hold.

Just as well this week’s podcast also deals with those other perennial issues in strata – parking and defects.

However, our chat about the now-shelved short-term rentals code of conduct and related regulations – which seem to have annoyed just about everyone on all sides – is still relevant because these issues aren’t going to go away, even if the solutions are seen to be more of a problem than the problem.

As detailed here, Planning NSW had done a magnificent job in uniting both pro and anti-holiday letting bodies … if only in everyone being cheesed off with the state’s planners.

The changes have been delayed until November 1 to “give everyone a chance to adjust.” Have a listen and see what we need but aren’t going to get until November at the soonest. And see if you can tell which policies will survive six months of pressure from Airbnb and Stayz.

Oh, and apologies to anyone who tried to listen to the podcast but couldn’t. Not our fault – there was just some glitch somewhere in the internet. I suspect the Russians, but it’s all been fixed now (fingers crossed).

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Then we move on to the prospective property purchaser who found that there’s nothing she or Building Commissioner David Chandler can do about an allegedly defective building that probably should never have had a certificate of occupation issued – certainly not on the basis of the certification signed by an unlicensed and unqualified tradie.

In Maryam Behrouz’s case, the building has been certified for occupation, the developer denies the claims of serious defects and she either has to complete the purchase or walk away from her $65,000 deposit.

In Mr Chandler’s situation, this all happened before he was given the power to block certification and as a result, he says, it’s not in his domain.

Fair Trading – the department in charge of builders, tradies, strata and certifiers –  typically, says it has nothing to do with the problem as it’s “contractual”. Some things never change.

And finally, we float the idea of providing a service that can move illegally parked cars without towing them. Have a look at the video along with this story and see what you think.

That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap.

Transcript in full

Jimmy  00:00

We had a bit of a podder’s nightmare this week. We prepared our episode for this week’s podcast, all about the new Airbnb or short term letting laws and regulations and what we thought was good and what we thought was not so good.

And we got it all packaged up and ready to go out. And late on Tuesday night after the podcast had gone out, the government changed its mind in the face of some fairly hostile criticism and decided to postpone everything until November.

Now that left us with our podcast having gone out to the world, and us commenting on something that’s still gonna happen, it’s just not going to happen very soon or in the form that possibly we had thought it would.

Anyway that I think it’s still a worthwhile discussion. The rules are on the table, they’re going to be pulled apart and put back together again, and they may end up being pretty much as they are in this discussion.

We’re also talking about that terrible situation where the young woman had put in a deposit for an apartment and then discovered that not only were there defects but that also the certification was extremely suspect.

And we’re going to talk about an interesting way of moving cars without towing them when they’re parked in the wrong part of your car park.

I will as usual be talking to Sue Williams, and I am as usual, Jimmy Thomson, and this is the Flat Chat Wrap.

{MUSIC} NB: time codes may be a little off as I had to re-record the intro – JT

It was late on Friday night; that time when politicians typically dump stuff on the internet that they don’t want to get in the papers over the weekend.

Sue 1:29
Do you think that’s why they did it, in this case?

Jimmy 1:31
I don’t know. I think they were just desperate to get it out. It’s basically the regulations from the Planning Department. Fair Trading have had their swing at the short-term renting regulations, but they needed Planning to come in with their bits, and so they did, on Friday afternoon, and it’s being pulled apart over the weekend. It’s quite interesting, what they’ve done.

Sue 1:57
What have they mostly done? What was the main tenet of it?

Jimmy 2:00
We knew there were things coming, like the code of conduct, and that people have to register their apartments or their houses, if they’re going to do short-term letting. There’s going to be (apparently), an exclusion register, which is basically a blacklist for people who behaved badly. There’s always been, as part of the short-term letting law, that there be a maximum of 180 days or nights in Greater Sydney and up around Byron Bay, where they have big problems with locals not being able to afford to live there, because every piece of property is rented to tourists. That was always on the cards, but then they’ve come out and added a whole bunch of other places that nobody expected (certainly, none of the people I’ve spoken to), like Newcastle, Dubbo, Bega, and Muswelbrook, places like that.

Sue 3:00
I wonder if Airbnb has been a bit of a problem? Well, we shouldn’t say just Airbnb; short -term letting companies like Airbnb and Stayz, and all those kind of things.

Jimmy 3:09

Sue 3:10
Have there been problems elsewhere in the regions?

Jimmy 3:13
Well, apparently, according to Tony Cordato, who sent us this excellent summary of all the law changes, the regulation changes, which are now on the the Flat Chat website. He said that when they announced that they were making special exceptions for Byron Bay and the Ballina area, a lot of local councils said, ‘hey, we’ve got the same problems here. It’s just not as obvious, and we’d like a bit of protection for our local residents as well.’ Obviously, they listened to them and brought in these 180 day/180 night caps on how much they can let out properties. There’s a potential here for a lot of people not to register the properties, but then the platforms like Airbnb and Stayz have been told, if a property is not registered on the short-term letting register, you can’t put it online.

Sue 4:15
So, will there be somebody policing that, do you think?

Jimmy 4:20
I think local people; the neighbors who are sick of you know, party houses, they will be all over it, but it’s interesting when you look at the conditions that they put in the code of conduct for hosts. If I may read, ‘they must not breach criminal law or the planning law. They must provide the premises in the same state as advertised or advised. Must have third party public liability insurance cover for personal injuries and death. They must be contactable to manage the guests, the premises, the neighborhood complaints and other issues within ordinary hours and for emergencies after hours. They must give guests contact details for an emergency electrical service provider, an emergency plumbing service and Australian emergency services. They must provide a copy of the code and the strata bylaws for strata premises. They must take every reasonable steps to ensure their guests comply with the code. They must advise the Strata Owners Corporation, that they’re using the premises for short-term rentals and provide their contact details and take reasonable and timely steps to address their concerns. And from 30th of July, they must not advertise a short-term rental for the premises, unless the host and the premises are registered on the premises register. And, they must not advertise premises which are on the exclusion register, or allow person’s recorded on the exclusion register to book.’ There’s a lot of rules.

Sue 5:58
Oh, there is. I mean, the bylaws in our building, are quite a big document. So, they’re going to have to provide those bylaws to each new guest? I guess they’ll just have them, you know, lying on a coffee table, or something. But still, they’ve got to make sure it’s there every time.

Jimmy 6:14
Yeah, and will the guests read them? No!

Sue 6:18
Well, no, of course, they wouldnt really…

Jimmy 6:19
But, they’ll be able to point out, ‘look, there are bylaws in there about noise,’ and things like that and you know, they might be enforceable. Because, what can happen if they allow the disruptive guests to rent their properties? Too often, they can be put on the exclusion register, because the exclusion register can include ‘hosts, properties, or guests.’

Sue 6:43
Okay, and do you think most people would have third person liability?

Jimmy 6:47
I don’t think so. Third party, yeah.

Sue 6:49
Sorry, third party. I wonder how expensive that will be?

Jimmy 6:53
I don’t know. I mean, look, it’s another expense. They’ve also got to put smoke alarms in every corridor, or bedroom. They’ve got to be all connected; interconnected. They’ve gotta put notices; you know those maps they have on the back of hotel doors, that say ‘you are here.’ They’ve gotta have that on the back of any door of any room that they’re letting and it’s got to include a map, showing how to get out of the apartment and how to get out of the building. That’s a lot of little bits of expense, that I think will make a lot of people go…

Sue 7:29
Is it worth it?

Jimmy 7:31
Either, it’s not worth it, or I’m gonna do this off-the-grid, kind of thing.

Sue 7:38
Is this the first set of regulations that have come out for Airbnb, nationally?

Jimmy 7:43
There have been a few half-hearted attempts. Victoria was the first one to come in and they said, basically, there’s three strikes of causing disruption or damage, and they can ban the property from being let. I don’t know if they have bans on guests, or hosts.

Sue 8:02
Because you wonder, if they’ll start looking at this one, and start copying it?

Jimmy 8:06
The dilemma for a lot of governments (especially now as we’re coming out of COVID), is that they want to get tourists back as quickly and in as large numbers as they can. To be honest, I think if this process hadn’t started before COVID-19 hit Australia, we would not be seeing these laws now, because they are quite restrictive.

Sue 8:31
I guess we’re always more concerned about apartments being used for Airbnb and other short-term letting platforms. You kind of think those regional areas will have far fewer apartments, but with the apartments here, does it cover the apartments who’ve managed to pass bylaws saying that they won’t allow Airbnb in their building?

Jimmy 8:50
Yeah, that’s all still okay, but one of the loopholes in that is, if the apartment is your principal place of residence, then you’re not covered by the bylaws. All you have to do is (and I’ve asked Planning and Fair Trading to confirm this), you could theoretically stay in your apartment for 27 weeks of the year, and then let it out for 25; the other 25. It’s still your principal place of residence. You’re staying there more than you’re staying anywhere else.

Sue 8:58
Sure. So, you could stay there for six months, then put away all your personal possessions and things and then let it out for the other six months?

Jimmy 9:34
If you look at the summer season here in Australia, it’s more likely to be eight and four.

Sue 9:39
I guess so.

Jimmy 9:40
And there’s also a complete exclusion for people who are doing the proper home sharing thing, where you have people (guests), in your property, while you’re still there. There’s no restrictions on that, 365 days a year, whether you’re in an apartment or a house or whatever,

Sue 9:58
But, the home sharing where you go away; you go and live in Paris in an apartment and the Parisians come and live in your apartment…

Jimmy 10:07
Well, this is interesting. If you are letting it for at least 21 days, to the same people, then it’s not counted against your 180 days in a year. So, you could have somebody come and stay in your apartment for a month and as long as it’s the same person, the clock hasn’t started on the number of nights that you’re allowed to let your apartment,

Sue 10:34
That’s still a problem for a lot of apartment buildings, isn’t it, because many of them don’t allow lets (like residential lets), for less than three months.

Jimmy 10:43
Well, as soon as you hit three months, you come under the Residential Tenancies Act, and then it’s all the stuff about bonds and notices to quit and stuff like that. Anybody who lets their apartment for that length of time; it’s that critical period between three weeks and three months. They mentioned in the legislation that it’s for visiting academics and business people, who don’t want to stay in a hotel, and they don’t want to have a three month lease; they want to come here for a couple of months and then go home. So yeah, there’s all sorts of little quirks and interesting wrinkles in the whole thing.

Sue 11:22
Is there still potential for some changes? Are they likely to tweak it at all, before it comes into effect at the end of July?

Jimmy 11:29
They seem to be able to tweak strata law whenever they feel like it (as we’ll discuss later, when we’re talking about the parking thing). The problem with strata is (as it always has been), the vast majority of MPs in Parliament don’t care. They really, really don’t. They care if they have their own investment properties that they let on Airbnb, as one very prominent member of the National Party does. They care if they want to use short-term rentals for their own purposes, like when they’re in session in Parliament, and they live outside of the city. But, generally speaking, as far as you and I are concerned, they don’t give a stuff. We’ve made our beds, we can lie it, is the attitude. So yeah, the upshot of that is that they can change these things whenever they feel like it. I mean, that’s what they did with the parking thing about obstructing common property. Suddenly, they just erased those two parts of the law that allowed you to move a car that was blocking common property.

Sue 12:37
So, we’re going to have to watch the next few weeks, to see what other groups say about these laws, and see if the government reacts to them in any way.

Jimmy 12:46
Stayz have already issued a statement, saying that they think it’s rushed and badly thought out and there should have been more consultation and there are elements of it that are just totally wrong. They basically said it’s been bungled. I think that was the headline. So, they’re coming out with all guns blazing,

Sue 13:05
It has taken over a year, hasnt it? You can hardly say it’s rushed, really. It might be bungled, but it’s not really rushed.

Jimmy 13:12
I think there was a bit of pressure (not least from us here at Flat Chat), to say, what’s happening was all these laws? Actually not least from Stayz themselves. They were agitating to say, ‘well, where’s this register? Where is the exclusion register?’ Apparently, the exclusion register doesn’t exist yet, but then they’ve got until July. Just a bit of a website and they do say that they’re taking names and people who’ve misbehaved. But it’s a change for moving forward. The first thing they say as to why they are bringing the legislation in, it is to facilitate property owners to be able to use their property for the purposes of tourism That’s right at the top, and then as an afterthought, to try and ameliorate any problems that might exist for the community as a result. But basically, their first priority is to get tourists back into the cities and back into the regions and everything else follows from that. When we come back, you’re gonna tell us all about somebody who’s gone toe-to-toe with Building Commissioner, David Chandler. That’s after this.

And we’re back. Sue, what’s been going on in the crazy world of David Chandler?

Sue 14:40
We heard last week about him being faced-off by a developer, who insisted that most buildings were shoddy, so therefore, why should he be picked on for his shoddy building (his allegedly shoddy building). This week, David Chandler has been having a bit of an altercation with a planner, a planning expert, who has been advising the woman who bought an apartment in Kellyville. The apartment building is said to have lots and lots of defects, and she had paid her deposit. The occupations certificate had been issued, apparently by somebody who wasn’t qualified. The planning expert called in David Chandler to have a look and David Chandler basically said he couldn’t really help. I think what he’s always said is that he’s looking into the future for buildings. He’s inspecting buildings, which haven’t been finished now and making sure they’re up to date. To be fair, he’s always said, ‘I can’t do anything about the buildings that already exist,’ and I think this building is not within his purview, really.

Jimmy 15:47
It all happened before the laws were passed to give him the power to do what he’s doing now.

Sue 15:57
That’s right. He’s got huge powers now, but he can’t really use those powers retrospectively. The planning expert has been criticizing him and saying, well, he really should be doing something and David Chandler was saying, he is not in a position to be able to do that. It’s a real shame, because I mean, it’s a terrible story about this woman being forced to settle.

Jimmy 16:21
It just shows you, the power of doing nothing, as far as developers are concerned. I mean, this developer cannot really be too concerned about their reputation, with all this publicity around this development. As far as I know, they’re not denying that there was anything, they’re just not saying anything. There’s all this evidence that something very dubious happened between the the certifiers going in and the council giving the certificate of occupation, which is the key point, you know. If the council had never issued the certificate of occupation, then the woman would not have had to buy the apartment. And now she’s being told, you can either forfeit your deposit or you have to go through with the purchase, which is just criminal; just disgusting.

Sue 17:12
It’s a terrible position to be in and your heart always goes out to those Mascot residents, who are still in a complete and utter mess as well. They’re involved in a court case, but you know, even if they win the court case, they’re still not going to be winners in the long run. It’s still going to cost them an awful lot of time and money and heartache and grief.

Jimmy 17:31
What are the chances, if there’s a multimillion dollar settlement awarded against the people that they’re in court with, that they just shut up shop and say, ‘we don’t exist anymore?’

Sue 17:43
Well, it’s always a possibility.

Jimmy 17:45
I would say a probability. It’s what is happening all over. Obviously, David Chandler is suffering in this case, because he’s the highest profile person associated with this kind of thing. Where is the government in this, though? Where is Fair Trading? Where’s the Fair Trading Minister?

Sue 18:04
As far as I’m aware, he’s never said anything about it whatsoever and Fair Trading keeps saying, ‘oh, well, you know, it’s not really our problem.’

Jimmy 18:12
It’s not our problem! Fair Trading (you know, the Department of broken toys and showbags), who insist that they have the control over this. They won’t let any other department take control of it; won’t do anything. I think in the story that you’re referring to, it was pointed out that since they abandoned the authority that looked after certifiers, the number of fines issued to certifiers have reduced by something like…

Sue 18:21
They’ve reduced to a 10th of what they were previously.

Jimmy 18:49
People are saying to Fair Trading ‘and what are you doing about these certifiers, now that you’ve taken control of this?’ They say, ‘oh, we prefer to educate and advise them.’ Yeah, that’s really going to make a big difference.

Sue 19:03
To be educated and advised, you have to be open to that, don’t you, really?

Jimmy 19:06
Yeah. I mean, it’s not even a rap on the knuckles. It’s a stern chat and this is what they do with strata managers; they have done for years. As I never tire of saying, there has never been a strata manager, who’s been struck off in New South Wales, just for being a really crappy strata manager, and we have encountered some of them that are just awful.

Sue 19:32
It’s encouraging in that point, regarding the Strata Community Association. They’re actually doing a lot more to try and make sure all their members abide by certain codes and are much more educated and are over their responsibilities and risks. So, that’s a great initiative that’s been taken.

Jimmy 19:51
Well, they’re trying to get themselves established as a professional association or whatever it is, so they they have the authority to discipline their members. But you know, not every strata manager is a member.

Sue 20:05
That’s true, but then if SCA increase their own profile, then maybe other buildings and executive committees will always want strata managers who are members of the SCA.

Jimmy 20:16
We know that the training the SCA does, it doesn’t always take on the people they’re trying to train, but at least they’re trying. Okay, that’s another one that could run and run, but, you know, you’ve got to think that this is not the last time that somebody is gonna find out they’ve bought a lemon, and there’s nothing they can do about it, especially if Muzza was the one who signed the certification document. This is somebody who’s been named in the story, just in case, you’re wondering,

Sue 20:49

Jimmy 20:51
Not everybody called Muzza is a bad person. When we come back, we’re going to talk about an innovative way of dealing with a car that’s been left blocking another car space. That’s after this.

Sue 21:08
What’s the thing about parking, Jimmy?

Jimmy 21:10
Alright, so, I got a question to the Flat Chat forum, asking exactly that. Can we move cars that are parked on common property illegally, or can we not? Up until fairly recently, there were allowances in strata law, that if a car was parked somewhere they shouldn’t be parked, that you could put a notice on it. You had to leave it for a week, and then you could move it to the nearest safe place and if that happened to be a car yard a suburb away, that was just tough. What you couldn’t do is move it to a parking area where it was going to collect fines.

Sue 21:52
Or, move it to the bottom of a river or something.

Jimmy 21:56
Based on that, I found this story, which I find very amusing. This bloke had a parking space and an adjacent parking space, and he would let his mate use the adjacent parking space, because he knew, even though his mate was blocking him in, he could always say, ‘do you mind moving your car?’ Then, somebody else started using that space and then the person using that space went away for a weekend. So, he was stuck. He and his mates couldn’t go to the football in his car, because this idiot had parked there. Now, faced with the same restrictions (you cannot really move somebody else’s car just for parking in the wrong space), he came up with this ingenious thing. I don’t know if you’re aware; there’s this thing they use in garages, in professional garages, and they will use them in showrooms as well. It’s kind of a U-shaped thing that slots under the wheels of a car. They’re four individual things and then you pump it up. The car wheels are lifted off, and now it’s sitting on what is effectively a trolley and you can move that trolley to wherever you want. So, they moved this car across the carpark and they found this area nobody ever used, in between two pillars. So, they push the car up there and then pushed it sideways, in between the two pillars. It had about six inches. They said that it sat there for several days and then one day, they came out and it had gone and nobody’s got any idea how it got out. Maybe, they went and got those hydraulic trolley things as well.

Sue 23:39
That’s a good idea, isn’t it? Because, you’re not technically touching the car.

Jimmy 23:42
No, and as long as you don’t damage it in the process… If somebody is going to be that inconsiderate… It’s actually on the last week’s forum round-up. There’s a link to the story, which has got this nice little graphic, showing how the car was spun around and slid into the area, which I’m sure would amuse anybody who’s ever been blocked in. You know, I’m thinking, maybe we could buy those hydraulic things and just rent ourselves out. We’ll call ourselves ‘Shifty Jimmy’s Shift-a-Car.’ That’s probably enough for us for one week, before we get into any more trouble. Thanks again, Sue, for your contribution. Always valuable and entertaining, and thank you all for listening. Bye.

Sue 24:32

Jimmy 24:34
Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website www.flat-chat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite pod catcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a W, click on subscribe and you’ll get This podcast every week without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

One Reply to “Podcast: Airbnb update as holiday let regs put on ice”

  1. Jimmy-T says:

    If you want to start a discussion or ask a question about this, log into the Flat Chat Forum (using the Forum link on the menu at the very top of your screen). More people will read it there and you can more easily keep track of responses.

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