Short-stays in the aftermath of COVID-19
An open Letter to the Premier of Victoria and the Lord Mayor of Melbourne …
For years we have lobbied for the regulation of the short-stay industry, especially in high-rise residential strata buildings not designed for hotel-type accommodation.
Our pleas have mostly fallen on deaf ears and the current changes to the legislation are proving to be unworkable.
However, a microorganism in the form of a coronavirus, devastating in so many ways, appears to have intervened to bring the short-stay juggernaut to a crisis point.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and lockdowns commenced around the world, including in Melbourne, it quickly became apparent there was no place for short-stay operations in non-commercial high-rise buildings.
The problem is fundamental: there is no means to limit the spread of the virus or to enforce social distancing rules in the short-stay environment.
In a very brief period, many of the commercial short-stay operators have abandoned our buildings and a number have gone out of business altogether.
Former short-stay apartments are now being rented out long-term and owners are discovering – what we have known for a long time – that investors can earn more from long-term renting than from short-term.
Now that restrictions are gradually being lifted, we must not allow a return to the bad old days where greedy commercial operators don’t contribute to wear and tear, security is compromised and the amenity we have rediscovered, disappears again.
We must emphasise that we have no problem with individual owners renting out a room in the apartment they are occupying, which was what short-term letting was all about in the first place.
So, please Mr Premier and Lord Mayor, listen to our pleas and work with us to create a long-term solution beyond lockdown.
The current decimation of the short-stay industry is but a grimly fortuitous artefact of COVID-19.
The short-stay industry needs to be properly regulated – we cannot rely on a deadly virus to protect residents’ rights to security and quiet enjoyment of their homes.
There must be a level playing field for all.
We Live Here, on behalf of the countless residents affected by unregulated short stays over the past few years.
What if you are not on the VBA list?
What happens if your building has non-compliant cladding and you are not on the Victorian Building Authority’s (VBA) list? We Live Here has been contacted by one such building.
The owners’ corporation (OC) for a medium density building in suburban Melbourne was requested by its insurance company to confirm its cladding status.
The OC arranged for core samples to be taken from the cladding surrounding the building and the façade at the front entrance, and all were found to be non-compliant. Fire services engineers were engaged and deemed the whole building to be high risk, with the facade (the escape route) most urgently in need of replacement.
Quotes have been obtained to replace the facade, but no decision has yet been made on how this would be paid for - from the OC’s maintenance fund or from owners directly via a levy. This work has not yet commenced.
For the remainder of the building, which would be considerably more expensive, the OC was hoping to tap into the $600 million fund announced by the state government.
The difficulty was - how?
The building has not received a Building Notice or Building Order, or any notice from the VBA or the local council that the building was at risk. It was only though the insurance company that they had learned about their issue.
A phone call from We Live Here to Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) confirmed this building was not on their cladding list nor on the VBA’s cladding list.
The OC was then advised to contact CSV and request help to work through the process of finding out if they could be eligible for funding. We shall provide an update in our next column.
Our advice if you are in a similar position with non-compliant cladding and not in the system is to contact CSV and request assistance from a CSV customer liaison officer.
Email [email protected] or phone 1300 456 542.
How many buildings have been approved by VBA for funding?
We have asked CSV how many buildings have already been approved for funding and we are yet to receive an answer. What we do know is that at least 487 buildings been referred to the CSV. These buildings are now being “prioritised” by CSV. CSV says that it is reviewing 60 buildings a month.
Municipal Building Surveyor - clarification
We have received clarification from Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) regarding CSV information in our previous column.
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has been appointed as the Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) for buildings outside the City of Melbourne.
Affected buildings within the City of Melbourne will continue dealing with the Melbourne City Council’s MBS.
Request for information
Please let us know if commercial short-stay operations have continued in your building during the COVID-19 pandemic and what steps, if any, have been taken to curb their activity.
As a not-for-profit organisation, donations from individuals and buildings keep our campaigns going. To register as a supporter of We Live Here or to donate, please visit our website at welivehere.net.
We Live Here does not accept donations from commercial tourism interests •