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Stamping out bad behaviour in short term lets

Renting out your room or apartment for short-term rentals may be a great way to add additional income into your bank account but as countless Australians have discovered it is also a sure fire way to get offside with your neighbours.

Currently there are around 115,000 holiday rental accommodation listings in Australia and numerous other home-sharing services, such as Airbnb and Stayz, available.

Yet while many stays are completed without incident, the popularity of this type of accommodation offering means many strata residents are being forced to deal with noisy parties, trashed common areas and out of control guests staying in neighbouring properties.

The issue rose to prominence last year when a young student was killed in Melbourne’s EQ Tower after asking aggressive gatecrashers to leave a party in a rental flat and another in a Point Cook property where police broke up a gathering of up to 200 at an Airbnb hired by a 15-year-old.

But after grappling with the issue for several years, state legislators have now found a way to fight back.

Earlier this month the Victorian government passed new laws that mean apartment owners can now be held liable for any damage, noise, or loss of amenity caused by their guests.

Under the Owners Corporation Amendment (Short-stay Accommodation) Bill 2016, announced by the Andrews Government, guests could face fines of up to $1,100 for a range of conduct breaches, including creating unreasonable noise or behaving badly; causing a health, safety, or security hazard; damaging common property; and obstructing a resident from using their property.

With more power being given to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), property owners may also be ordered to pay neighbours’ compensation and any damage caused by their guests to common property, with VCAT now given the authority to award compensation of up to $2,000 to neighbours, and ban short-stay apartments that are repeatedly used for “unruly” parties.

And it appears other states are considering doing similarly.

In June last year the New South Wales government introduced a short-term holiday letting plan that aimed to give consumers more choice while cracking down on bad behaviour.

While the state government is currently reviewing feedback on the proposed amendments, the proposal includes a mandatory code of conduct for online accommodation platforms, letting agents, hosts, and guests that sought to address impacts of noise levels, disruptive guests, and effects on shared neighbourhood amenities.

The proposed code also includes a new dispute resolution process to resolve complaints, and NSW Fair Trading will have powers to police online platforms and letting agents.

In addition, hosts or guests who commit two serious breaches of the code within two years will be banned for five, and be listed on an exclusion register.

Meanwhile, the government of Western Australia is conducting a “comprehensive assessment” of the rules governing home-sharing services like Airbnb to ensure the short-stay provider is properly regulated. The inquiry is due to be tabled on June 27.

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