Short-term letting inquiry a necessary step

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New South Wales’ peak real estate body believes a parliamentary inquiry into short-term letting in the state is a necessary step.

The state government announced late last year that it would hold an inquiry into the sector, prompted by the recent rise of online platforms that have made the practice easier.

“We are particularly interested in the growth of the sharing economy and how online platforms like Airbnb and Stayz are changing the way people book their holidays and rent out their homes,” NSW MP Glenn Brookes, Chair of the Committee on Environment and Planning, said.

“We need to make sure that any new regulation of short-term holiday letting delivers better outcomes for everyone involved, as well as ensuring that local economies continue to grow,” Brookes said.

According to the government, the inquiry will look at whether specific areas such as customer safety, neighbourhood amenity and land use approval need to be addressed through better regulation

Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) chief executive officer Tim McKibbin said advances in the short-term letting industry were mirroring recent developments in a number of industries.

“It’s a similar situation to what’s happening in a range of industries where the technology is evolving and the regulator can’t keep up,” McKibbin said.

“We’ve seen it with the taxi industry with the emergence of Uber and now it’s time that we highlight what’s happening in short term accommodation sector and see what needs to be done in terms of education and better regulation,” he said.

While platforms such as Stayz and Airbnb do make it relatively easy for people to offer houses, units or even single rooms up for short-term accommodation, McKibbin said the public may not realise they are on the wrong side of the law or other agreements such as strata by-laws.

“A lot of people might be of the mindset that it’s their property and they can do what they want, but the legislation that covers tenancy and rental properties in New South Wales is quite complicated and they’re likely to be unaware of a lot it.

“In particular short term rentals can cause problems in properties covered by strata agreements where there can be even more restrictions on what can and can’t be done with a property.”

While McKibbin said owners considering offering their property up as short-term rental should be mindful of legal implications, he also said there are other aspects they should consider.

“Whether or not they are breaking any specific regulations, people should still consider whether it’s appropriate for them to use the technology that’s on offer.

“There’s an issue of competence as well. I’m not really sure that amateur people out there have all the required skills and experience to deal with the sorts of issues that can come up.

“No two properties are the same and no two property issues are the same and developing the ability to handle them and resolve those issues is something that takes time to learn.”

While he has reservations about amateurs using the platforms like Stayz or Airbnb, McKibbin said professionals should embrace them.

“At the moment we just need to better understand the potential of the new technology that’s out there.

“At the moment it seems to be moving ahead at almost a daily rate so there is a real danger that those that don’t embrace it will be left behind.”

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