Western Australia to regulate Airbnb-like short-stay accommodation

The commitment follows a state inquiry that found the policy governing short-term rentals needs to be updated.

Western Australia to regulate Airbnb-like short-stay accommodation

The government of Western Australia has announced its intention to regulate short-stay accommodation players, such as Airbnb, across the state.

The announcement follows the 2019 Parliamentary Inquiry Levelling the Playing Field -- Managing the impact of the rapid increase of Short-Term Rentals in Western Australia that made 10 recommendations to both improve the current outdated and inconsistent policy which governs short-term rentals and create greater certainty for the tourism industry, accommodation providers, and guests.

The government on Wednesday said it would adopt almost all of the recommendations.

See also: Airbnb wants to help create homesharing legislation in Australia

"We acknowledge the value that the community places on having access to short-term rentals and the contribution this sector is making to our economy through emerging service industries and new jobs -- but we must also make sure there are appropriate protocols in place to ensure sustainability and support our traditional accommodation providers," WA Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said.

"This is a complex issue and we acknowledge that local governments across the State have had good and bad experiences in this sector -- and that they will have specific requirements that need to be considered moving forward."

Saffioti said the government intends to provide the real estate industry, planners, developers, and local governments with clear guidance on requirements for the short-stay accommodation market and said a "co-ordinated approach" will be taken to achieve this.

The whole-of-government approach in response to the recommendations will include investigating appropriate regulatory or legislative frameworks that can meet the needs of the "rapidly changing sector".

It will include a registration scheme for all short-term accommodation providers.

"Any registration scheme for short-term rental accommodation will ensure that guests know that they are protected and will be supported by a public education campaign for owners, property managers and purchasers," Saffioti added.

In addition to a registry, the state government is aiming to develop legislative or regulatory mechanisms to require the display of a valid registration number for short-term rentals advertised on online platforms.

See also: Airbnb and rental scams are more common than you think, report warns (CNET)

It also is working on amending land use definitions to differentiate between hosted and un-hosted accommodation; looking into introduce deemed provisions into all planning schemes for hosted accommodation and seeking to have them exempt from local government approval; updating strata title guidance to include powers and processes open to strata companies to manage short-term rentals; and developing an education campaign to ensure owners, property managers, and purchasers are aware of their obligations regarding short-term rental properties.

An interagency working group has also been stood up, which was welcomed by Airbnb head of public policy for Australia Derek Nolan.

"Certainty about the future of home sharing is incredibly important for Airbnb hosts across WA who rely on the income they receive from hosting to make ends meet. We welcome the government's commitment to further exploring the relevant issues involved via an interagency working group," Nolan told ZDNet. 

"There are still important issues to be resolved including whether WA follows Tasmania, NSW, and South Australia in implementing comprehensive statewide rules -- or whether we create a complex, confusing patchwork of regulation where different rules apply across more than 130 WA councils."

Victoria in 2018 passed legislation that gives short-stay accommodation providers and their neighbours more power.

Guests face fines of up to AU$1,100 for a range of conduct breaches, including creating unreasonable noise or behaving badly; causing a health, safety, or security hazard; damaging common property; and obstructing a resident from using their property.

The Bill, among other requirements, also means apartment owners can now be liable for any damage, noise, or loss of amenity caused by their guests.

A year after a Parliamentary inquiry into home-sharing services such as Airbnb, the New South Wales government in June 2018 introduced a short-term holiday letting plan that was touted as supporting the sharing economy and giving consumers more choice while cracking down on bad behaviour.

The mandatory code of conduct for online accommodation platforms, letting agents, hosts, and guests aims to address impacts of noise levels, disruptive guests, and effects on shared neighbourhood amenities.

Updated 13 February 2020 at 8:15am AEDT: Added comment from Airbnb.

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