The sharp downturn in the tourism industry brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has led both accommodation letters and the NSW government to have a change of heart about the controversial code of conduct for short term rental accommodation (STRA) in the state. This proposed legislation was originally put on ice after lobbying from STRA agencies, who believed it would put too heavy a burden on property owners and destroy the STRA market in Sydney and the surrounding area. However, the two biggest online STRA agencies – Airbnb and Stayz – are now calling for the code of conduct and the associated register to be gazetted as soon as possible, in order to help the market in NSW recover.
The government, in turn, is believed to be willing to accept less onerous terms for the code of conduct, and it is rumoured that the legislation now being backed by both the NSW government and the letting agencies is a somewhat watered down version of the original code of conduct and register.
The reason that Airbnb, Stayz and other agencies are now keen for the code of conduct to be passed into law is to help them reassure both potential customers and local communities that the properties they are marketing are safe, clean and well run. The new code is believed to oblige owners, agents and guests to ensure that every property is properly run and that guests are not a nuisance to the local residents that live close to the properties in which they stay.
During recent interviews, agency spokespersons made their company’s positions on the new legislation clear.
Airbnb’s Australian head of policy said: “Many of the proposed regulations are interlinked and we are keen to work with the NSW government to see the full package finalised and implemented as soon as practicable.”
Stayz corporate affairs director stated that: “The code of conduct and register working in tandem would provide certainty for the owners, travellers and communities that there are proper rules governing the sector”
Whilst our own Gabriel Sarajinsky had this to say on the matter: “I’m all for it if the industry is better regulated as a result. Ultimately, if it’s going to give people the reassurance that it’s well run, then that’s a good thing.”
With the backing of the two largest online STRA agencies and HomeHost, the oldest property management company working with these two agencies in Australia, the chances of the new code of conduct passing into law seem to have received a substantial boost. And by pushing for a more palatable code of conduct now, the tourism industry hopes to avoid more punishing legislation being brought in at a later date.
Governments in some other countries have already introduced laws that have had a detrimental effect on their respective STRA markets and Australian agencies, including ourselves, would like to ensure this does not happen here. The proposed code of conduct in NSW should help to ensure that properties are well run, without the need for draconian taxes or burdensome legislation.
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