They say it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and the coronavirus gale that’s blasting though our holiday industry will be a breath of fresh air to one group of people – the poor, beleaguered residents of apartment blocks that have become infested with short-term holiday lets.
To be fair, NSW has escaped the worst of it, thanks to the tireless work of the Owners Corporation Network (OCN) in making the state government realise that communities should not be destroyed in the pursuit of the tourist dollar.
But the picture is very different in Melbourne and up on the Gold Coast.
In the former, the laissez faire attitude of the Andrews government has led to some apartment residents in the city centre being in virtual lockdown at weekends, when groups as large as 100 or more sports fans have block-booked flats in their buildings, then taken over their common areas to party before and after matches.
Apartment residents speak of being too scared to open their doors on weekend evenings, let alone go out themselves, for fear of what they will encounter in the lifts and lobbies of what’s supposed to be their homes.
It is so bad there that many premium apartment blocks require potential purchasers to sign an undertaking that they will never list their apartments for holiday lets – otherwise other big dollar buyers would just walk away.
Up on the Gold Coast, local councils have turned a blind eye to the plight of apartment dwellers who bought into supposedly residential-only blocks, only to find that the “no holiday let” planning laws could be flouted by opportunists who surfed an internet-inspired wave of contempt for any regulations.
According to the Unit Owners Association of Queensland, confronted by breaches in numbers that they had never anticipated, and lacking the funds to police even a fraction of the illegal holiday lets, some of the larger councils decided to abandon their constituents and pretend that there was no problem that they could see. There are none so blind …
But it’s all very different now. The opportunists who grabbed up available rental properties in popular holiday areas, planning to sub-let them for a substantial profit as illicit holiday lets, now have no visitors to let them to, even at normal residential rates.
Those who bought the promises of holiday let hucksters at get-rich-quick seminars are now left with portfolios of empty properties, on which they will still have to pay rent.
In NSW, the biggest players in the Airbnb field have several hundred properties – the vast majority rented and sub-let – soon to be sitting empty, leaving the city’s welcoming smile somewhat gap-toothed.
But, on the other hand, there is no one to welcome, and there won’t be for a while.
It’s unlikely, but it would be hugely ironic if some of the bigger illicit holiday let operators – the ones who’ve ignored planning laws, their by-laws, or even just their neighbours pleas – lost their own homes in the financial wash-up of empty rental properties on long leases.
Then they will know how the tenants who were kicked out felt when they were forced to make way for tourists.
In property, what goes around, comes around. But, hey, at least they will have a choice of rental properties to move into.