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NSW short stay curbs labelled “draconian” – and too soft

One industry body has slated as “draconian” the NSW plans for short stay reform which last week drew widespread sector support – while another says they don’t go far enough.

Trevor Rawsley, chief executive of the Australian Resident Accommodation managers’ Association (ARAMA), says NSW’s reforms are the result of a “hysterical backlash” to issues around unregulated party houses, and are trying to appease too many special interest groups.

While he supports government moves to register short stay properties and advocates new licencing for rental agents to help eliminate cowboy operators, Rawnsley is vehemently opposed to the 180-day cap on the nights a property can be rented through Airbnb.

“NSW has ended up with a set of recommended policies which are quite draconian if you believe in the free market,” he said.

“Overall they’re an attempt to control something which is out of control, but there are different ways to go about it. There is a limit of 180 nights in the Sydney CBD and the possibility of even greater restriction in rural areas. That’s draconian because if you’re an investor owner, it cuts your ability to get a dollar return by 50 percent.”

The NSW government put its short-term rental accommodation discussion paper out for public consultation last week, saying the policy “seeks to enable local economies to continue to benefit from the STRA (short term rental accommodation industry), while protecting communities from anti-social behaviour such as increased noise for neighbours”. That consultation period will run until September 11.

Greg Channer, managing director of the Illawarra’s award-winning Emerald + Aqua holiday home network, says he welcomes the release of the draft legislation, but argues its proposed code of conduct for operators does not go far enough in addressing issues around party houses.

“Short term rental accommodation is a key driver of tourism in rural and regional NSW and clearly the impacts on residents’ amenity resulting from inconsiderate or anti-social behaviour by some short-term rental guests needs to be addressed,” he said.

“The industry is being held accountable for poor guests’ behaviour, its these few guests and the culture of party houses that needs addressing. 

“The current draft code does not go far enough to protect the amenity of neighbours and residents.

“Booking platforms need to take a greater responsibility for unreasonable disturbance, remove ‘Instant Booking’ features and ensure property managers speak with each guest prior to accepting their booking request and qualify the reason and nature of their stay.”.

Trevor Rawnsely is on the same page when it comes to what he calls “carpark cowboy” agents. 

He said: “If the NSW reforms included licencing as a key component, every operator involved in tourism accommodation deemed to be a commercial operator would need to be educated, need to pay the appropriate fee, need to account for monies in a trust account and get those accounts audited.

“If that were to happen, you would find there would be a lot less cowboys and it would go some way towards appeasing Tourism Accommodation Australia and the Accommodation Association of Australia because there would be compliance requirements. There should be licencing of the owner, and registration of the premises.” 

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