Short-stay abuse despite resident’s VCAT win
By Barbara Francis and Rus Littleson
Residents in a prestige Melbourne apartment tower report that they are living in fear of abuse and violent threats from out-of-control short-stay guests – despite a VCAT ruling in favour of a resident who complained.
In a legal first, VCAT issued consent orders against Melbourne Serviced Apartments Pty Ltd for a string of disturbing short-stay incidents. The resident who complained was awarded compensation by the tribunal.
Undeterred, another short-stay operator continues to create havoc in the same building.
Imagine living in a building where short-stay guests repeatedly vomit from balconies, where residents are abused by party-goers at 2 or 3am and where your children find used condoms in common areas the next morning.
This is a nightmare lived by thousands of Victorians who live in residential apartments.
And the so-called “Airbnb Act” has not tamed the terrifying incubus of short-stays.
The Owners Corporations Amendment (Short-stay Accommodation) Act 2018 promises a puny compensation of up to $2000 to residents. Residents have Buckley’s chance of getting anything like this amount.
The complainant in this case went to VCAT and won $1000 as compensation for “loss of amenity.”
$1000 is small potatoes for a litany of grievances – recreational drugs, vomiting, blood stains, cigarette butts, condoms, abuse, threats, noise, sleepless nights, mail theft …
Hypothetically, the Airbnb Act should award the victim up to $2000 per incident – which in this case, with more than 10 separate incidents, could add up notionally to $20,000 or more.
With this precedent-setting case and consent orders issued, we know now what the VCAT benchmark is: let’s call it $100 compensation for each time a drunk short-stay guest vomits on your balcony or abuses you at your apartment door or in the lift.
How’s that for a reward for taking time off work to negotiate the VCAT legal maze over a period of more than six months?
As a resident you would want to be looking at the strategic advantage of a VCAT consent order and how that would help you stand up to the bully-tactics of unscrupulous short-stay corporations. The monetary compensation is risibly pathetic.
The worst part is the relentless continuation of the incidents that are classified as loss of amenity.
Barely one month after this brave resident won VCAT consent orders, all hell broke loose.
The same apartment building was the scene of a violently abusive, riotous short-stay party.
An affected resident gave us this harrowing report:
“On a Saturday night in January, two apartments were rented out by Bella Manager Pty Ltd trading as Experience Hotel Apartments to a group of youths. About 50 people flooded the foyer and various floors with loud, drunken and abusive behaviour. I was threatened and abused by this group repeatedly. Police were called multiple times by scared residents. Security and police eventually evicted them. At around 5:30am the original group amazingly managed to re-enter the building.”
“The safety of my family was compromised on Saturday. I am furious to learn that this group has caused problems in this building before and yet continue to be able to rent apartments with apparently little vetting and no proactive security checks in place.”
“I chose to buy an apartment in a secure building, and I expected it to be secure. Short-stay providers operate a business model that blatantly compromises that security and the peaceful amenity of my home, while the managers of these businesses sleep soundly in their quiet beds.”
We Live Here fought long and hard against the Mickey Mouse bill that is now enshrined in the OC Act 2018. A government media release on the day it became law stated: “Residents living in apartments next to short-stay accommodation shouldn’t have to put up with rowdy parties and out-of-control guests – and that’s what these tough new laws will deliver.”
This case demonstrates how weak the legislation really is and with no review until 2021 what other recourse do residents have against the might of unscrupulous operators and an out-of-control and unregulated short-stay industry?
We will continue to lobby for regulation until the government catches up with the rest of the world. A good first start would be to actually listen to the voice of residents!
Airbnb memo: how not to pay GST
According to Neighbours Not Strangers (neighboursnotstrangers.com), Airbnb has emailed its landlords to offer advice on how to get out of paying GST on their host fees. GST applies to Airbnb’s 3 per cent commission but, given Airbnb’s massive turnover, this still represents what some refer to as a major “swindle” on taxpayers and residents.
Short-stay response to bushfires angers users
Users of short-stay platforms such as Airbnb have been posting their outrage over the “no-cancellation” policy of the providers.
Under Australian consumer law, when a “frustration of contract” occurs, guests are entitled to a full refund of all prior payments.
This includes situations where “the authorities have advised that the area is not safe to enter.”
Providers have been reported as refusing to allow refunds.
Meanwhile, Airbnb is struggling to appear magnanimous in the face of the national bushfire emergency.
In what seems a cynical gesture, Airbnb is leaning on its hosts to offer free accommodation in areas outside the perimeter of the fire-affected areas. Airbnb’s media release makes it clear that other people will cop the bill for its so-called beneficence.
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