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My Home, My Rules?

By Tara Hayes on August 27, 2018 in News

Everyone’s doing it, by Billy Holiday

Travellers venture across the globe to catch a glimpse of our beautiful beaches, have brunch at our trendy cafes and enjoy a relaxing day soaking up the warm sun. It comes as no surprise that our coastline is a hotspot for Airbnb, an online platform that enables people to rent out one room or their entire property for a few days or months on end. But a proposed law regulating short-term letting could shake things up for hosts and guests.

The Fair Trading Amendment (Short-term Rental Accommodation) Bill 2018, recently passed by the NSW lower house, gives strata management the ability to stop short-term letting in their building if 75 per cent of owners disapprove.

It also restricts hosts in the greater Sydney area from renting out their property for more than 180 days a year.

These two reforms will not affect hosts who live on their property and merely rent out rooms.

A new code of conduct will be introduced, including a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy, which aims to combat noise levels and disruptions to neighbours.

If a host or guest seriously breaches the code twice in two years they will be banned for five years and placed on the exclusion registrar.

“For decades, short-term holiday letting has underpinned the prosperity of communities up and down the NSW coast, and I am proud that our policy will support local economies,” NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean told The Beast.

“That said, neighbours and the wider community shouldn’t have to cop bad behaviour from rowdy guests, and that’s why we have introduced the toughest laws in the country to crack down on this.”

Minister Kean said the government consulted with key stakeholders and the broader community, with the Options Paper receiving more than 8,000 submissions.

Gabriel Sarajinsky, managing director of the short-term property management agency HomeHost, told The Beast the proposed laws would clear up “grey areas” for hosts and minimise disturbances to neighbours, but also risked taking away owners’ rights.

“If you own a property, it’s your property,” Mr Sarajinsky said. “You should be able to do what- ever you want with it.”

“If you want to rent it out, you should be able to rent it out.”

Mr Sarajinsky said these changes are causing investors to turn their backs on the Sydney market in favour of lower property prices and fewer restrictions.

“There are a lot of great hosts who are welcoming guests from all over the world into their home and showing great Aussie hospitality,” he said.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing and should be here to stay year-round.”

Research lecturer at UNSW’s City Futures Research Centre Dr Laura Crommelin said the 180-day cap is “generous” relative to cities worldwide, but if the limit allows commercial operation to continue then it becomes a “real worry” for Sydneysiders.

“I think the segment of Airbnb activity that involves people genuinely sharing spare space in their own homes is a positive thing in many ways, so I think there’s some merit to allowing this to continue under the new regulations,” Dr Crommelin said.

“But for people trying to live in Sydney, particularly renters, anything that has the potential to add to the city’s significant housing affordability issues is a real concern.

“Short-term letting isn’t the only reason the housing market in Sydney is so unaffordable, but it is a factor.”

Dr Crommelin said that while it is good the government is tackling the short-term letting issue, we need to ensure properties are used as homes for those who need them, not just treated as accumulative assets.

The bill is expected to be heard in the upper house when Parliament sits again some time in the near future.