Unruly Airbnb guests will soon cause more headaches for their hosts, as neighbours gain new legal powers to seek compensation of up to $2000 and bans for problem rentals.
But a blindspot in the apartment-focused legislation means free-standing houses are completely unaffected, one of the law’s key architects has warned.
From Friday, members of an owners corporation or strata community can take their grievances about owners of rowdy short-stay apartments to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which can lead to fines of up to $1100 for owners in question and $2000 in compensation for affected residents.
The unit can be banned from short-stay letting if it is hit with three breaches or more within a two-year period.
“Residents living in apartments next to short-stay accommodation shouldn’t have to put up with rowdy parties and out-of-control guests – and that’s what these tough new laws deliver,” Consumer Affairs minister Marlene Kairouz said in a statement.
Breaches can be levelled against owners and their guests for making too much noise, interfering with a resident’s enjoyment of their property or causing damage to common areas.
It is unclear as yet what will be considered unreasonable noise, as it will take two or more decisions in VCAT to set a solid precedent, former chair of the Independent Panel on Short-Stay Accommodation Simon Libbis said.
While helping to build the laws in 2015, the panel tried to strike a balance between an owner’s right to rent out their property on Airbnb and a resident’s right to live peacefully in an apartment building or complex.
“It happens in some countries where it’s just banned completely and others let the owners corporations write their own laws,” he said.
The laws have support from Airbnb, which views the rules as tough but fair.
“These laws will deter bad behaviour and punish the minority of people who do the wrong thing, while ensuring the overwhelming majority of people who do the right thing aren’t unfairly penalised,” Airbnb’s head of public policy for Australia and New Zealand Brent Thomas said in a statement.
The new rules do have some shortcomings, Mr Libbis said. For one, going through the already overwhelmed VCAT can be a time-consuming process.
“I don’t think [VCAT] will want these things cluttering up their list,” he said.
Homes that aren’t a part of the strata committee or body corporate were exempt from the new laws too, leaving neighbours of some party-prone properties with no recourse for noisy Airbnb guests.
“Most of the problems we’ve seen in the press have been houses, and these won’t be affected by these laws at all,” Mr Libbis said. “They’re not members of owners corporations.
“There’s no reason it couldn’t be extended beyond owners corporations.”
Mr Thomas said the laws should be extended to free-standing houses too.
“These laws are a good step but can’t be the last step,” he said. “We look forward to working with the government on implementing these laws and taking further action against anti-social behaviour.”
Opposition consumer affairs spokesman Neil Angus said the legislation was inadequate as it totally ignored the impact of short stay dwellings on residents in suburban and regional areas and dwellings not subject to an owners’ corporation.
“Short stay rental accommodation isn’t confined to the CBD,” Mr Angus said.
“This short stay legislation once again illustrates the Andrews Government’s city-centric focus, which has failed to consider the amenity of the majority of Victorians who don’t live in inner city apartments.
“The Liberal Nationals believe we need to get the balance right between an investor’s right to use their asset and the rights of neighbours to enjoy the use of their property.”
The new laws come after a number of wild parties in short-stay rentals, including one last year in Melbourne’s EQ Tower where young student Laa Chol was killed, and another in a Point Cook property where police broke up a gathering of up to 200 teenagers.
In the wake of Ms Chol’s death, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he was open to tightening the laws around short-stay rentals.
A new police squad has also been set up in response to the parties in short-term rentals, with officers trawling the internet for signs of gatherings that could get out of hand.
This article was first published in www.domain.com.au. Here is the link to the original article: https://www.domain.com.au/news/victorian-airbnb-unit-owners-can-be-fined-and-banned-from-tomorrow-houses-unaffected-797590/