Airbnb urges law change to stop violence

Airbnb is urging the Victorian government to pass ‘anti-party laws’ next week following a spate of violent incidents in short-let rentals culminating in the fatal stabbing of 19-year-old Laa Chol.

A Bill cracking down on disreputable hosts and tenants has languished in the Victorian parliament’s upper house for more than a year as the Andrews government has sought to secure cross-party support.

And while the legislation before the house will only cover apartments and not private houses, Airbnb says it is a vital “first step” towards better industry regulation.

Speaking exclusively to Accomnews, Airbnb’s public affairs manager for Australia and New Zealand, Julian Crowley, said: “For two years we have called for regulation to act on the issue of how you address party houses.

“We’re hopeful the government will consider the Bill next week – the opposition has indicated a position of supporting it.

“We’ve said to the government we’d like to see the laws extended to houses, but passing the Bill is a first step for how you do things across the state.

 “We want to have a serious conversation with every state about how you regulate the industry. There is a role for governments to play.

“It’s all about how do you find the right balance in punishing people who do the wrong thing, but ensure you are not punishing the majority of people doing the right thing.”

In a statement from Airbnb’s head of public policy of Australia and New Zealand, Brent Thomas, the home-share group said the time has come for parliament to pass the “tough but fair” laws.

Airbnb proposes the NSW government’s recent reforms as a model for Victoria – despite criticisms they only apply to Sydney and allow properties to be let as ‘quasi-hotels’, perpetuating inequities for commercial operators and making housing less affordable.

The NSW reforms impose a 180-day cap on the number of days empty properties can be rented, give strata corporations power to ban Airbnbs, and create a two-strike policy through which disreputable hosts and guests can be banned and excluded from the short-let market.

“Passing this common sense law should be the first step of reform but not the last step,” the statement reads.

 “Airbnb believes more can and should be done.

“We believe a similar strikes policy should be extended to include freestanding homes as well. This would ensure all home sharing activity – not just that conducted in apartments or units – is captured by tough but fair rules.

“The NSW reforms seek to strike a balance between protecting the right of Victorian’s to responsibly share their own home to earn extra income, while fairly managing rare instances of bad behaviour.

“The NSW model includes a mandatory Code of Conduct and a strikes policy which applies to all industry participants.”

Asked if he agreed with the Australian Resident Accommodation Managers Association’s suggestion that all Airbnb operators listing properties for a third party should be licenced, Mr Crowley said he could not comment without seeing the exact details of the proposal.

“We don’t support onerous red tape,” he said.

“But we are involved in industry reference groups and extensive consultation, for example in Queensland where we’re working through all of those issues.”

Galaxy research conducted last year showed 61 percent of Victorians supportive of giving the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal powers to crackdown on landlords, including 34 percent who strongly supported the idea.

The poll showed cross-party support for the proposal.  

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