Short-stay rental debate reignites after a Docklands resident calls for better regulations

Brendan Rees

A years-long debate about how to regulate bad behaviour at short-stay rentals has resurfaced after a Docklands resident publicly called on the City of Melbourne to create a register.

In a written submission that was read out at the council’s first meeting in Docklands on May 17, resident Anthony DeLuca expressed his concern the precinct had been “negatively impacted” by short-stay apartments, including issues of noise, parties, and drug activity.

He said many councils in Australia had introduced regulations aimed at ensuring visitors could share accommodation without disruptive behaviour, noting the NSW government had implemented a new state-wide regulatory framework for short-term rental accommodation.

Mr DeLuca therefore asked the question, which was read out by Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece, saying, “will the City of Melbourne commit to establishing a short-stay register to regulate the use of short stay accommodation and ensure an appropriate standard of management and behaviour?”

Cr Reece told a gallery of about 50 attendees at the council’s Future Melbourne Committee meeting held at The Hub at Docklands that it was a “good question”.

A council officer-prepared response, also read out at the meeting, said, “In 2019 the Victorian Government introduced changes to the Owners’ Corporations Act 2006 that allow an owners’ corporation (OC) and residents to take VCAT action against property owners where unreasonable impacts are caused by way of damage, hazards, noise, and behaviours.”

It continued, “This legislation applies directly to properties where an OC exists, which makes up a high proportion of residential development within the city, unlike the needs of other councils where the same circumstances may not apply.”

However, the Docklands Representative Group (DRG), believed the council’s response “missed the point of the question”, saying “VCAT is a channel for complaints – meaning that it is used after damage or disturbance has occurred.”

 

“The question from Mr DeLuca asked about the City of Melbourne taking a more proactive role in ensuring short-stay operators are identifiable, contactable and meet some minimum standards,” a DRG spokesperson said.

 

The DRG said there were no official records of where short stays were operating, “nor any mechanism to ensure they, as a business, meet accommodation standards.”

“Everything is left to the OC to manage. But at least having a register would help OCs in better managing short stays operating in their buildings.”

The Docklands Chamber of Commerce has several short-stay accommodation members, and believed “reputable and quality providers exhibit a professional service and bring much needed visitors to Docklands.”

“In today’s society we believe short-stay accommodation has a valid place in any destination,” Shane Wylie, executive officer of the Chamber, said.

“These businesses operate within the current legislation and are often the most proactive enforcers of neighbourhood peace and harmony.  We welcome their business in Docklands and will continue to work with them.”

Joel Chamberlain, the OC manager at Horizon Strata, a property management firm in Docklands, said he understood all points of view in terms of creating a council register to regulate short-stay accommodation, but struggled to see how it would be effective.

“I’m sure everyone wants to know how it can be done better,” he said, but conceded, “I don’t really know how that [register] would assist the situation.”

He said giving broader powers to OCs would “probably be better than a register that tells you something you already know if you live there.”

“It might help people who are looking to purchase or rent, but not existing residents. I don’t think it would help them control or deal with issues on the ground.”

Mr Chamberlain said while his firm didn’t currently manage buildings in Docklands, building managers typically oversaw daily operations and “try to keep abreast of the short-stay operators and their tenants. If it gets out of control, they obviously call the police.”

Docklands News has reported extensively on the short-stay debate in recent years, and while the topic has drawn mixed opinions, many say “we need rules, and we need balance.”

It comes as a Docklands couple left the area in 2020 after their lives “changed dramatically for the worse” after one-third of their building became occupied by short-stays with noise and damage becoming unbearable. •

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