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Fears over Airbnb takeover

Think Local

Libby  Moline says she is "hopping mad" about potential NSW Government changes that will relax regulations  on home owners and strata-title residents opposed to short-term rentals and Airbnb bookings.

Just a short walk from Balmoral Beach, her apartment block is prime Airbnb real estate and she has first-hand experience of the problems this type of high turnover holiday letting is having.

"I think it's just an invasion of my privacy," she tells North Shore Living. "We have permanent owners and some wonderful long-term renters but we have also had regular Airbnb rentals and many of these have been a disaster."

Like the time a couple came home drunk in the afternoon and had sex on the carpet outside her door, or the occasion a man was locked out of the Airbnb rental unit next door and climbed over Ms Moline's balcony to get inside.

"There is a huge problem with security - renters don't often understand this is not a hotel - we live here, it's our home and we have to pick up the pieces while they are here and when they go home," she states.

The North Shore is fast becoming an Airbnb "mini-city" with a proliferation of homes, units and rooms for rent - many with luxury harbour views.

With prices ranging up to $2000 a night, savvy owners are taking advantage of a booming market and access to holiday activities available during the New Year.

There are currently more than 300 properties on the Airbnb website in the Mosman, Cremorne, Neutral Bay and Milsons Point suburbs - with many more on other holiday and short-term rental sites.

Many of the descriptions sound exciting – “New York style loft, Mosman room with ocean views overlooking  Balmoral", a "tranquil apartment" in Neutral Bay and "a superb waterfront" in Kirribilli.

The NSW Government has completed an 18-month review, headed by Mark Oatley MP, which has recommended that Airbnb and short-term rentals be expanded throughout the state.

“The committee believes the best way to end confusion concerning short-term letting is to define it consistently throughout the state, permit it with effective regulation and develop a compliance system," Mr Oatley says.

He says, despite many councils prohibiting the holiday letting in council's LEP (Local Environment Plan), it does contribute to the local economy, assists homeowners earn money and generates a low level of complaints.

"We do recognise that strata properties are a special case but we do not support prohibition powers for owners' corporations. We support the Victorian model where appeal is permitted to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal where this letting impacts on buildings," he says.

But this is rejected by both North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson and Mosman resident Ms Moline.

"Under our LEP, Airbnb comes under the banner of short-term accommodation and is banned in North Sydney," Cr Gibson tells North Shore Living.
 "If people buy into an apartment complex, it's comforting for them to know their neighbours and have a sense of security.People on holiday have different routines and the two are not always compatible," she adds. "Personally, I don't think it's fair on other residents but it's growing like crazy and will continue to grow when this new legislation is approved."

Mr Oatley argues that the government has attempted "to get the balance right".

Ms Moline, who is also a Mosman councillor, says the tribunal will be a toothless tiger and wants local councils to continue to have more say and jurisdiction.

"What is the point of having security in your unit block when every man and his dog can get a key? She says with frustration.

“I have spoken to many people who feel these new regulations will discriminate extra strata residents. "A lot of these apartments are being rented like hotels and the people have gone by the time any complaints can be lodged.”

She says the growing practice is devaluing owner investments and causing stress for neighbours.

“The concept of 'our home' will fast disappear."



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