Victoria opens door to party flats



Obviously, the following Flat Chat column was written before the events of last week in Victoria, which you can read about in our other featured story – JT.

While NSW pollies are still wrestling with what to do about online short-term letting agencies like Airbnb, which are cool and groovy – until your apartment block turns into holiday hotel hell – Victoria is about to give them the big green light.

This week, the Victorian parliament has been debating changes to its Owners Corporation Act that pretty much give Airbnb-style short-term lets free rein in residential buildings, leaving permanent residents to chase badly behaved guests and their hosts after it all, inevitably, goes pear-shaped.

The proposals assume that owners and tenants will be able to let a room or their entire apartments for a few days or a weekend. If their guests turn out to be noisy, abusive or damage common property, owners can pursue the host, guest or both for compensation and fines at the Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal.

If the hosts have had three orders against them in two years, the neighbours can ask for a complete ban on the unit being used for short-term stays.

This may seem reasonable – punish the offenders, not the good guys –  but it ignores several of the realities of strata life.

Not least, there’s the fact that most residents don’t buy or rent apartments thinking that the flat next door, or above or below, is going to be occupied by a different set of complete strangers every week.

Another major hole in this legislation is that letting agents won’t be liable for compensation or damages.  So, if you want to get your Docklands flat on Airbnb, get yourself an agent and a post office box and release the party animals.

Anybody who has actually lived in strata schemes (rather than just inventing laws for them) knows how hard it is to track down absentee owners, especially those who live overseas. And as for the long-gone guests – are you serious?

It will take years of misuse, abuse and excuses before the full effects of this law change are seen.  But it’s OK – it’s only apartment residents who will be affected, so who really cares?

Let’s hope our Minister, Victor Dominello, sees Sydney as a true world city of the calibre of Berlin, New York and Amsterdam– where short term lets in residential buildings are being controlled and curbed –  rather than a hick town that doesn’t know how to look after people who live in high rises.

What do you reckon?  Is Melbourne on the right track or have they caved in to the sharing without caring lobby? Drop us a line on the Forum

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