Ban Airbnb like they do in New York, says tourism peak body


Australia’s peak tourism body wants the federal government to follow New York’s lead and ban short-term rental listings.

New York state law already prohibits rentals of less than 30 days when the owner is not present but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo went one step further last Friday when he signed legislation banning short-term lets from being advertised, effectively clamping down on Airbnb listings.

Anyone violating the short-term accommodation law in the Big Apple can be slugged with a fine of up to US$7500.

Despite Airbnb saying that the changes will not have much of an effect on guests or hosts, and the company claiming most listings in New York City are legal, Airbnb has decided to sue, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and violates freedom of speech.

Airbnb is also facing court battles in cities such as San Francisco, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. Dublin and London are also considering a crackdown.

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) says it wants Australia to follow suit and ban short-term lettings and fine those sites which advertise them.

But the organisation may be facing an uphill struggle trying to slow down the sharing economy juggernaut in Australia as services such as Uber and Airbnb become legal in a growing number of states.

TAA’s statement comes after a NSW Legislative Assembly report (released last week) which recommended short-term rentals be allowed in NSW and that state and local government adopt a light touch in their regulation.

The report said local councils should consider short-term rental accommodation as exempt or complying development, making it easier for people to rent out all or part of their homes without having to apply for change of use or having to comply with the Building Code of Australia.

There were also calls for a state-wide definition of what constitutes permissible short-term letting and setting guidelines on how councils should approach it.

Although the recommendations have many supporters there was resistance from other quarters, notably strata owners and residents in buildings or areas where short-term occupants were noisy and obnoxious, as well as hotel and bed and breakfast owners.

But TAA CEO Carol Giuseppi said Australia was out of step with the rest of the world by going “soft” on unregulated commercial short-term rentals, citing NSW as the latest example.

“It is ironic that at a time when city administrators across America and Europe are imposing major restrictions on unregulated commercial short-term accommodation operators that a NSW parliamentary committee should be advocating a softening of regulations,” Ms Giuseppi said.

“As in New York, we want a very specific ceiling on the number of days an apartment or house can be let out on the short-term market and we want online distribution channels to be held responsible for ensuring these limits are not exceeded and that they advertise only properties that are compliant – meeting safety, insurance, body corporate, strata, council and state regulations.

“This is the same situation that has occurred in American and European cities and they have taken action to control the situation.”

Ms Giuseppi said that the “overwhelming majority of listings” for short term accommodation in Sydney were for entire houses, with no sharing involved.

“We are not against genuine ‘sharing’, but we believe there needs to be sensible and proportional regulations imposed on non-resident commercial property owners – especially multiple-property investors – who rent out full properties for short term stays.”

She said that the sector was increasingly controlled by commercial operators with multiple properties available year round.

The TAA has argued that short-term accommodation sharing websites like Airbnb increase tax avoidance and penalise traditional short-term accommodation providers, such as motels and bread and breakfast, because they have to adhere to more regulations.


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