Unit blocks (condos) forced to take Airbnb lets under proposed laws
Jimmy Thomson
27 August 2016

Apartment buildings in New South Wales (NSW) could be forced to accept short-term lets – including every weekend – under proposals being formulated by a parliamentary inquiry.

The Sydney model

And protections for owners who don’t want holiday lets, which have become hugely popular through online agencies such as Airbnb and Stayz , were “blown out of the water” by City of Sydney’s submissions, according to a committee insider.

City of Sydney’s proposals would allow complete homes, including apartments, to be let for a specified number of days a year before they had to apply for a “change of use” planning approval.

One figure being seriously considered is 100 days a year. Critics have pointed out that this is the equivalent of every weekend – the times when short-stay guest disruption is at its worst.

The Sydney model has apparently been seized upon by pro-short stay committee members who are using it as a “least worst” benchmark, even for buildings where most owners don’t want holiday lets in their unit blocks.

The final proposal is due within weeks and, according to unnamed sources close to the committee, it is moving closer to a combination of three models, two laws from interstate and significant parts of the City of Sydney submission.

The first element
The first element is the Victorian law due to come in later this year, which allows short-stay letting in strata schemes but has provisions for suing hosts and their guests for damages, including disruptive behaviour.  It also has a three strikes rule that could see individual apartments, where short-stay guests frequently behave badly, banned from having short-stay lets in the future.

However, Victorian strata residents’ group WeLiveHere claims the laws will be impossible to police and will require constant vigilance and repeated legal action by apartment owners if they are to have any effect.  

The second element
The second element under consideration for NSW legislation is the Queensland Party House law, brought in to prevent houses and units, primarily in the Gold Coast, from being set up as commercial weekend party venues, where revellers would literally party for all day and night, often with rock bands, DJs and strippers.

The third element
But it’s the third element, the Sydney Model, that would undercut strata residents’ ability to run their buildings how they want to.

Currently, apartment blocks in NSW can ban short-term lets by passing bylaws that confirm the block’s adherence to their development approvals and zoning, using the definition of residential lets as being nothing less than 30 days.

City of Sydney suggests that short-stay holiday letting be defined as “exempt development”, meaning that neither “residential only” zoning nor hotel planning requirements would apply.

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