Scrutiny for Airbnb, Stayz in the Hunter

OPTIONS: Angie Hillcoat prefers letting her Merewether house on Airbnb to renting it out because the new format lets her 'filter' the people staying there more effectively. Ms Hillcoat lives next door. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
OPTIONS: Angie Hillcoat prefers letting her Merewether house on Airbnb to renting it out because the new format lets her 'filter' the people staying there more effectively. Ms Hillcoat lives next door. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HUNTER property owners who use Stayz and Airbnb could face limits on how often they let their properties and be forced to pay strata fees under a plan before the NSW government.

Hosts could also have to reimburse neighbours for disruptive guests, and have to be registered to let under the crackdown on short-term holiday letting.

The release of an options paper with the proposals on Friday followed hundreds of properties being listed across the Hunter, and criticism of how the industry is regulated differently across councils.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper told NSW Parliament of his concerns with short-term holiday letting as it stands, citing a homeowner at Coal Point with an Airbnb house either side of him.

“My constituent tells me he would not care so much if the home’s owner was on site when paying visitors were staying,” Mr Piper said. 

“His other permanent neighbours say, ‘it just doesn't feel like our neighbourhood anymore’.”

In February, Lake Macquarie council considered but held off changing its local planning guidelines to permit short-term rental accommodation, subject to certain provisions.

Among the latest solutions raised is a strata rule allowing owners’ corporations to lobby the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to charge “increased contributions” from short-term letters.

In response, Stayz said the government has failed to properly distinguish between holiday homes and city short-term rentals.

“In the Hunter, short-term rental accommodation generated over $130.1 million in economic uplift and supported up to 836 jobs,” corporate director Jordan Condo said.

Airbnb said it welcomed more regulation, but not “heavy-handed” measures.

“While some of the options are fair and sensible, others would hurt not only our host community, but also millions of travellers and the small businesses who depend on Airbnb,” head of public policy Australia and New Zealand Brent Thomas said.

Angie Hillcoat, who lets a house in Merewether through Airbnb, said limiting how often hosts can let their properties could have the effect of making them less fussy about their guests in order to protect their income.

“I make it clear if I get a booking that looks like they’re going to be big party people that I live next door. Then the booking drops off,” Ms Hillcoat said.

“You can filter people really well this way. We’re protecting our investment by doing this; we’ve had a bit of damage to our homes prior to Airbnb.”

The government will make the options paper available to the public for three months while it decides how to regulate the $31 billion industry.