Residents still concerned about short-stay
When Melbourne, and then Victoria, re-entered lockdown in July and August, some residents hoped that short-stay operators had been put out of business for at least the medium term, if not for good.
Guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria (DHHS) for multi-dwelling properties clarified that private holiday rental facilities (such as Airbnb) were not permitted under stage three or four restrictions, unless they fell into one of eight exceptions.
We Live Here founder Barbara Francis said those exceptions effectively created loopholes for short-stay operators to continue to operate.
“When strangers started appearing in some buildings, that is without the foreknowledge of managers or the owners’ corporations (OCs), it indicated some die-hard short-stay operators were involved,” Ms Francis said at a forum host- ed by Residents First – a council ticket which ran in last month’s City of Melbourne elections.
The DHHS guidelines stated exemptions were:
• to a person whose place of residence is the accommodation facility
• to a person who is ordinarily a resident of Victoria but has no permanent place of residence in Victoria
• to a person who has a permanent place of residence in Victoria, but that place is temporarily unavailable
• to a person, on a temporary basis, who has travelled to Victoria for work purposes
• to a person who was already a temporary guest of the accommodation facility on July 8 2020
• to a person who requires emergency accommodation, including in relation to family violence and other vulnerable groups
• to a person who requires accommodation for work purposes, where their work is for the purposes of responding to the state of emergency in existence under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008
• to a person who is subject to a Direction and Detention Notice, the Diagnosed Persons and Close Contacts Direction or a Detention Direction
The short-stay industry was one of the hardest hit sectors when the pandemic began, and holiday travel stopped. Ms Francis said the industry posed a health risk in the context of a pandemic.
“It is simply that the modus operandi of short term letting is totally at odds with maintaining a COVID-safe plan, it actually creates a potential health hazard,” she said.
Strata lawyer Tom Bacon told the forum apartment owners would have no control over keeping short-stays out of their buildings coming out of lockdown.
“There’s just nothing that can be done and that of course is the great disappointment here,” he said.
“The Subdivision Act 1988 and the Owners’ Corporation Act 2019, the legislation that governs short term stays, just has nothing express written in it regarding short term stays.”
Mr Bacon said a court case that had tried to enforce rules created by OCs to stop short-stays was struck down by the Supreme Court because of the lack of attention to the issue in the legislation.
He said the only legislation on the issue was written subsequently by the Labor Government to permit short-stay letting.
“You don’t have to be too smart to work out that it’s the people coming from interstate or overseas that catch the bug and then if they don’t quarantine for a period of time then it gets out into the community,” he said.
“And if these restrictions lift and if hotel quarantine is lifted or Airbnb is allowed to be a form of quarantine then you’ve got potentially infected people that have come from all over the country if not all over the world in close proximity with all of the residents.”