14 September 2023

Is Canberra's growing short-stay accommodation market causing more harm than good?

| Lizzie Waymouth
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The number of short-stay entire dwellings in the ACT increased by 66.4 per cent in the 12 months to March 2023 from 681 to 1133. Photo: Region.

Canberra’s short-term rental market is booming, but there are calls for better regulation of the industry as it continues to expand.

Owners corporations are dealing with “noise, damage and vandalism” from Airbnb parties, while community groups say the short-stay market is having a damaging impact on the ACT’s long-term rentals, taking away properties that are needed to meet demand.

The number of short-stay entire dwellings in the ACT increased by 66.4 per cent in the 12 months to March 2023 from 681 to 1133, the highest growth of any jurisdiction in Australia, according to recent data from REIA.

In total, there were 1413 short-stay accommodation places in the ACT, including both entire dwellings (whole homes or apartments available to be rented) and rooms within a private home or shared accommodation.

Growth was particularly pronounced in Belconnen where the number of short-stay entire dwellings increased by 145.8 per cent over the 12 months to March 2023. Reid recorded an increase of 100 per cent and Lyneham 83.3 per cent.

Vantage Strata Group General Manager Jarrod Smith told Region that strata management corporations have been dealing with issues around short-term stays for some time.

He said there have been problems with “noise, damage and vandalism” from weekend stays and overnight trips that turn into parties, as well as from bucks and hens parties.

Mr Smith said the second major issue is theft, which is generally focused around publicly accessible mailbox banks, often used by short-stay hosts to keep keys or other valuables.

He said there had been an increased spate of break-ins to properties with mailboxes with a combination lock.

“We’re seeing that anything that has a combination lock on, it would then obviously identify to the thief or thieves that it’s an Airbnb,” he said.

“We’ve seen some examples where they will target the combination lock to get into the mailbox bank knowing there’s probably a key or a fob or some level of access available to them if they break in.”

Mr Smith said it was also common for thieves to book into the accommodation, access the keys via the combination lock, enter the property, “do their rounds of stealing things and bikes and vandalism, and then put the keys back into the mailbox at the end”.

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Mr Smith said there needs to be more legislative consideration around how owners corporations manage short-term rentals, such as a requirement of approval before owners set up a combination lock box or a register of short-term rentals so owners corporations are aware it is taking place and know who to contact in the case of an emergency.

He said some owners corporations are calling for an end to short-term rentals altogether, or placing restrictions on the length of stay, for example, a three-night minimum.

“I don’t think they’re ever going to get to the point of actually completely cutting it out and stopping it, which a lot of owners corporations are moving towards trying to do. They’re putting rules in place to say that you just can’t short-term rent here at all,” he said.

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It’s not only owners corporations that are concerned about the rise of short-term rentals. Tenants’ lobby group Better Renting says while short stays provide a vital service for the tourism industry, they may be having an impact on the local long-term rental market.

“When properties that could be providing a relatively stable long-term home for a member of the ACT community are instead being turned over to speculating on tourism, it’s not a good thing,” executive director Joel Dignam said.

“Obviously tourism is part of the ACT economy, but that economy is built on the back of people who actually live and work in the ACT. And if they don’t have the options to be part of the community and have an affordable home, then we’re not meeting the minimum we need for the community.”

Mr Dignam said Better Renting has previously communicated some of its recommendations to the Chief Minister’s office, which include a registration scheme to track short-term rentals, charging a levy per stay or per night or limiting the number of nights a property can be put on the market.

He also said the ACT needs to address its housing shortage through further planning changes and that the new Territory Plan released this week did not do enough to ensure an adequate housing supply for renters.

“The problem with Airbnb is that it means there’s less available for rent,” he said.

“The ACT Government got a lot of attention earlier this week for their action on planning issues … But what they proposed on Monday is pretty pathetic, and it won’t be enough to see any change. So let’s take action on short-term rental, but also let’s get those planning changes right so that we can actually see a pipeline of more property entering the market.”

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Incidental Tourist8:32 pm 14 Sep 23

“… it was also common for thieves to book into the accommodation … do their rounds of stealing things…” – Hmm is this fake news or foolish fantasy? How would a short term guest coincidentally also a “thief” who is a registered booking user, with a verified email, home address, phone and credit card commit stealing and get away with their crime? It’s like dropping thief’s driver’s licence and a credit card at the crime scene. Also “thief” booking fee includes insurance premium. So is it rather a good manner for “thieves” to pay for victim’s contents insurance at the place of stealing? Look at the picture – they must pay $500-$700 to book. What can a thief steal at the hotel room to reimburse their expense? Used sofa, a soap dispenser or some toilet paper perhaps? The truth is that large apartments have all sort of residents including renters and thieves and these thieves have to shift blame away from them. It is hard to catch thieves, but it’s quite easy to point finger to short term guests. Strata managers often look for easy fix solutions, so they are keen to jump on band wagon of blame shifting when it fits their interests.

devils_advocate5:47 pm 13 Sep 23


The reason people are doing airbnb is because the residential tenancies act confers more ownership rights on the tenant than on the landlord

And the tenant can terminate a lease on 4 weeks notice, so I guess at the end of the day everything’s a short-term lease!

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