“A chance to lead the world”: Why Vic must get smart about short lets

A leading accommodation group has backed calls for Airbnb agents to be licenced following a series of out-of-control parties at short-let properties across Melbourne.

Chris Fozard of the Budget Motel Chain says the Victorian government needs to work with Airbnb to find a solution, instead of hastily introducing laws as a “knee-jerk reaction” to the issue of disruptive and violent guests.

He said: “Almost weekly in Victoria we are seeing news reports of Airbnb properties being damaged or where violence has broken out during organised parties, and in the case of Laa Chol, caused death.

“I agree with the Australian Resident Accommodation Managers Association (ARAMA), where short-stay agents should be required to get a licence. 

“This licence should also require short-stay agents to follow local health and safety regulations, as the Accommodation Association of Australia has said.”

Last week, Accomnews spoke exclusively with Airbnb’s public affairs manager for Australia and New Zealand, Julian Crowley, who said the group was pressing the Victorian government to pass new anti-party laws as a matter of urgency.

We also spoke with Trevor Rawnsley of ARAMA, who urged the Andrews government to continue working with accom groups on a measured solution.

He said: “We strongly recommend that it is essential that any person who operates as a letting business on behalf of another person needs to hold a licence.

“This is absolutely critical.”

Mr Fozard says that while some moteliers remain hostile to Airbnb, others have accepted the platform and embraced it – listing their homes and units on Airbnb.

“The genie is out of the bottle, we can’t put it back in and why would we try?” he said.

But he did argue the need for legislation to regulate the short-let sector.

“Moteliers and hoteliers in Australia are required to adhere to federal, state and council laws relating to accommodation and these need to be reviewed, or implemented, to ensure that local councils have guidelines to follow.

“A regular comment we hear from Budget Motel Chain members is ‘we have to follow the laws and can be shut down instantly if we don’t, so why don’t they?’

“The Victorian government has a chance to lead the world here, it needs to ensure that all relevant industry bodies are involved and it’s crucial that they get it right.

“Let’s not miss the opportunity.”

Mr Fozard argues funds raised through licencing could go towards employing inspectors to check properties and ensure transparency within the sector.

“You need a licence to fish, operate a boat, drive a car or bus and run a motel, so why not introduce a yearly licence for short-stay properties, only issued once proof of the correct insurance has been supplied?

 “Rarely do Airbnb properties employ receptionists or housekeepers, and I doubt that owners of these properties lodge every booking to the Australian Tax Office. 

“So currently, are they getting tax-free money from renting out their properties?

“The Accommodation industry needs to be looked at from all tiers of government, not just state by state with ad hoc laws put into place.”

It is believed the Victorian parliament will this week discuss its Bill regulating apartment short-lets following intense public pressure to resolve the party-let issue. The Bill does not, though, cover Airbnb-style lets of private houses.

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