By Shane Scanlan
Residents hoping for a legislative solution to short-stay rentals in apartments will have to wait until at least 2021 for their next opportunity following the passing of the Owners Corporation Amendment (Short-stay Accommodation) Bill 2016 on August 8.
The new law won’t come into play until February and the government has said it won’t again revisit the issue until at least two years after that.
The state opposition is promising “serious change to these laws” if it wins the next election but, if actions speak louder than words, it has given little hope to residents, having failed to oppose the government’s new legislation in Parliament.
High-rise residents are appalled that, after four years of inquiry and legislative review, the best protection owners’ corporations have is an ability to take unruly visitors to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to face a possible $1100 fine.
Lobby group We Live Here spokesperson Barbara Francis accused the government of being in the pocket of Airbnb and said Victoria now had “the weakest regulatory restrictions for short-term letting ever seen in Australia”.
But the state opposition is also in the sights of the lobby group – having spoken vehemently against the Bill, but failing to oppose it in the Parliament.
“Yesterday’s outcome must rank as one of the worst cases of politicking and back-room deals seen in Parliament,” Ms Francis said.
“How can we think otherwise when every speaker on the opposition side condemned the Bill for all the reasons we have articulated over the past two and half years, then walked out of the House before the vote was taken.”
The Greens also did not vote against the legislation. Melbourne MLA Ellen Sandell told CBD News there was no point forcing a division where votes are counted and recorded because the Liberals had already determined not to oppose the Bill.
Opposition planning spokesperson David Davis told CBD News: “In the circumstance of being unable to rewrite the entire Bill from opposition, the Opposition chose to not oppose the Bill, neither supporting, nor opposing.”
Earlier in the Parliament, he said of the government: “They have squibbed it here. We are going to look at expanding the powers after the legislation has passed. That is too late. This pathetic piece of legislation will be passed into law, and they are then going to review it after missing the whole opportunity to actually improve it.”
“Today they come to the chamber wanting the bill passed—a squib of a bill, a weak, pathetic, paltry bill—and yet they have had these recommendations in front of them since June 2017.”
In a press release, Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz said of the new legislation: “These tough new laws will deliver essential protections that apartment residents deserve.”
“We’re regulating the short-stay sector to better protect Victorians and crack down on unruly behaviour in short-stay accommodation.”
Tom Bacon, CEO of Strata Title Lawyers said: “The legislation is not worth the paper it is written on. These regulations are the lightest feather of a touch, and do not provide owners’ corporations with any meaningful way of regulating the issues associated with short-term stays. I would not advise owners corporations to use these regulations. It would be a costly exercise and a waste of time.”
Mr Davis said in the Parliament: “It may not make it any worse. It may just leave it pretty much the way it is now. It will do no harm, but it will do no good. I think that is a summary of this bill.”
“I can put on record now that if we are elected, we will take action in this area. I know my shadow ministers are all aware of the feedback from the community and we understand that in fact people have a right to be safe and people have a right to lay out the living conditions of their area in a reasonable way.”
“I accept that there is a balance to be struck, but truthfully this is not it and more will need to be done. We are very aware of that and we think that this is just a very, very weak step.”