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Short-stay committee sits on the fence

29 Jun 2017

By Shane Scanlan

The issue of short-stay accommodation in residential buildings is no closer to being resolved, with a government committee examining the matter sitting firmly on the fence.

On June 8, State Parliament’s Environment and Planning Committee released its report into the Owners Corporations Amendment (Short‑stay Accommodation) Bill 2016.

The report recognises the problems that short-stays can cause and makes a series of lukewarm findings and recommendations. And, while it recommends giving owners’ corporations (OCs) power to regulate, it stops short of recommending they be given powers to ban short-stays altogether.

The committee acknowledges the legitimacy of short-stays but says they need to be regulated to protect residential amenity.

The committee’s report does little more than summarise the evidence it heard and, ultimately, it hands the problem back to the government to solve.

On November 7 last year, the opposition referred the matter to the committee during the Bill’s second reading in the Upper House. The government has six months to respond to the committee’s report.

In his chairman’s foreword, opposition planning spokesperson David Davis said: “In my view the Bill will have to be substantially amended to address many of the issues raised in evidence and to strike a more appropriate balance between the rights of the peer-to-peer accommodation industry and the right of residents to quiet enjoyment of their own properties.”

“There is no doubting the growing importance and in particular the economic significance of the peer-to-peer accommodation sector and the aim of government regulation must be to ensure this sector thrives within a responsible framework that accords fairness and rights to those with whom it cohabits.”

Recommendation four of the report is potentially the strongest: “That, as part of its broader review of consumer property law, the Victorian Government considers the appropriateness of giving owners corporations of strata complexes power to regulate short-stay accommodation in their building.”

But a preceding paragraph makes clear the proposed level of regulation: “The committee recognises that apartment owners have the right use their properties within the law for short‑stay accommodation. However, in the committee’s view owners’ corporations of strata buildings should be empowered to regulate short‑stays within their complex. This should include the right to insist on legitimate inductions on building facilities.”

Owners’ corporations opposed to short-stays will gain some heart from recommendation nine: “That the Victorian Government, in its review of consumer property law, considers allowing owners corporations to levy fees on short‑stay accommodation providers to cover increased maintenance and repair costs caused by their guests and the usage of these apartments. This should include a fair and equitable cap on the percentage of fees that may be levied.”

However, those wishing to limit the number of days an apartment can be rented will be disappointed with the committee’s response.

“The committee does not support a restriction on the number of days an owner may let their property for short‑stay. However, it recognises that there is a need to regulate short‑stay accommodation that falls within the scope of commercial‑residential accommodation.”

And, on the other side, short-stay operators who had advocated for a system of self-regulation will also be disappointed.

The committee said: “During the inquiry’s public hearings, stakeholders were unable to provide a compelling argument in favour of self‑regulation through the code of conduct in lieu of legislation.”

And, while the committee clearly advocates regulation, it has offered the government little advice about how it should be done.

The committee said: “Based on the concerns raised in evidence, the committee considers that the Bill is inadequate and unfair to many parties, including residents and, in some cases, those who are legitimately providing short‑stay accommodation.”

Mr Davis said: “The legal position of short‑stay accommodation and the ability of owners’ corporations to manage these matters within their own complexes will require the government to find a solution.”

The We Live Here anti-short-stay advocacy group has welcomed the committee’s report. As reported on page 23 of this edition, the group said: “We Live Here welcomes the recommendations made and so do our members who, until now, have felt their concerns have been ignored by the government and short-stay operators.”

“It is gratifying to know that politicians now understand that the short-stay issue is about safety, security and the unfair cost burden on the majority of owners.”

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