Unregulated Airbnbs in Margaret River could attract fines of up to $250,000 under new local council rules.
The Shire of Augusta Margaret River has appointed a holiday home compliance officer to review listings on short-stay platforms and inspect those suspected of lacking appropriate planning approval.
It will issue $500 infringement notices to offending properties, and owners continuing to rent them out without proper consent will be liable for prosecution under local government law which allows for penalties up to $250,000 and daily penalties of $25,000.
The tough new rules follow a resolution passed by council in September to launch a focused compliance campaign against unregulated homes.
“If you do not have a current development approval you should immediately cease letting the dwelling out for short term accommodation and not recommence unless or until you obtain approval,” council guidance says.
The measures come days after the WA state government announced a long-awaited inquiry into the short stay industry, following industry pressure for regulation of the Airbnb-style accommodation it claims is damaging the business of many traditional providers.
Airbnb says operators are suffering because of a tourism downturn, not competition from unregulated short stays.
Debbie Noonan, Margaret River Guesthouse owner and founder of the Registered Accommodation Providers of the Margaret River Region, welcomed the council action.
“Our shire has certainly listened in our meetings and taken steps in not just clearly spelling out what is and isn’t short stay accommodation, but putting in place clear measures to ensure residences and registered accommodation providers are protected,” she said.
The council has vowed to continue to act on complaints from neighbours and local residents about disruption cause by short-stay guests and says it will “prioritise these as has always been its approach”.
Retaining affordable housing stock and preserving neighbourhoods to ensure a sense of community are among its stated reasons for the new measures.
Protecting unsuspecting homeowners from the possibility of accident liability, establishing controls to ensure fire safety and noise compliance, and ensuring fairness across the sector are also factors, it says.