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Short-stay – alliances grow

03 Jul 2012

Short-stay – alliances grow Image

By Melissa Chen

As the serviced apartment issue continues, alliances are being formed. We see two teams with different interests taking different stands. It is commercial versus political.

Team commercial consists of the serviced apartment operators who are currently resisting a regulatory attempt to force them to operate as hotels.

This team is championed by VicShortStay, an industry group which is encouraging local short-stay accommodation businesses to maintain high community standards by adopting the recently-developed Holiday Rental Conduct Code.

VicShortStay has 13,000 short-stay properties on its books which are currently under threat from a City of Melbourne action designed to close them down.

VicShortStay is lobbying for self-regulation rather than an abolishment of the industry. It does not condone the actions of rogue operators who have been undermining the industry.

Team political is formed by owners’ corporations, the City of Melbourne and residents.

Arkley Owners’ Corporation chairman Roger Gardner said: “Interests are being expressed at a political level.”

Mr Gardner heads a new group of owners’ corporation chairs which, among other issues, is gearing up to battle short-term accommodation in residential towers.  He said similar groups in Queensland and New South Wales were similarly mobilising.

On the question of self-regulation for the industry, Mr Gardner said: “Any control system that regulates an industry is good; having a controlling body that specifies rules of conduct and has the power to impose sanctions on members for non-compliance is a big step forward.  Such a regulatory system would be good for Victoria.”

Melbourne MHR Adam Bandt said better management of serviced apartments was needed to protect permanent residents from unacceptable noise and disturbances, and to protect properties and buildings from damage.

Mr Bandt said: “Serviced apartments should require a planning permit. The State Government and the Planning Minister should work with the council to alter the Docklands zone in the Melbourne Planning Scheme and exclude serviced apartments from being a permitted use.”

Last August the City of Melbourne asked the Australian Building Codes Board to amend the classification of class 2 buildings in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) to identify that it does not apply to buildings being used for short-term accommodation.

If serviced apartment operators are forced to comply with class 3 building regulations, it is expected that most will leave the industry because it would be too costly to comply.

The council has not heard whether or not its request has been accepted.

Mr Gardner said a problem with short-stay rentals was short-stay tenants who threw parties and caused disruptions to the long-term residents. Noise and vandalism were the main concerns, he said.  

On the other hand, short-stay operators say council should not be wasting ratepayers’ money by pursuing legitimate and legal enterprises.

Operator Paul Salter said: “It is ridiculous to assume that short term tenants are any different from long-term tenants.”

VicShortStay spokesperson Andrea Wilson shares his view, saying:  “The actions taken by the Melbourne City Council will not solve the issue of noise regulations by any resident both short or long-term.”

Mr Salter said 99 per cent of owners of short-term businesses did not condone parties with high levels of disturbances.

“In my five or six years running the business, there were only two such parties. When it came to our attention that there was a party going on in the building, the police were called and within half an hour, the tenants were evicted,” Mr Salter said.

“I can say that there are parties going on in long-term accommodations as well.”

His Docklands Executive Apartments (DEA) business was recently awarded Tripadvisor’s Certificate of Excellence award for 2012. The accolade is only given to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews on TripAdvisor and honours excellence.

Ms Wilson said: “We have a zero tolerance for parties, clearly outlined in each business’s operating terms and conditions.”

She said short-stay accommodation businesses adopting the code of conduct respected the privacy of local residences and had implemented clear strategies to minimise any noise disturbances.

At least both teams can agree on the importance of tourism to Docklands.

“Tourism is important to Melbourne, but there needs to be better management of serviced apartments in Docklands,” Mr Bandt said.

Mr Salter said council’s efforts to shut down the short-term accommodation industry would have a huge impact on tourism, and would destroy local businesses.

“Restaurants would be the first to go, I reckon,” he said.

Ms Wilson said: “A dismissal of short-stay accommodation would not only adversely limit accommodation options for visitors to Victoria but eliminate the potential to develop and offer a variety of much-needed accommodation and tourism services.”

Mr Salter said: “We take full responsibility for any issues caused by these tenants, be it long-term or short-term,” Mr Salter said.

Mr Salter said short-term businesses ensured that fire safety regulations were followed and instructions on fire safety were given to tenants when they checked-in in case of any emergency. He said there was no need for his buildings to be classified as a hotel to provide the same standards of safety.

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