Reimposed COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and massive fines have the potential to damage the entire short-stay industry beyond recognition.
All operators of short-stays, including apartment owners and commercial operators (beyond just Airbnb), can now look forward to fines ranging from $1652 to $9913 for each booking, with each guest facing a fine of $1652.
Prior to the current lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic had already seen a dramatic collapse of the short-stay industry, especially among commercial operators managing numerous properties in high-rise residential buildings.
Short-stay operations have proven to be incompatible with controlling the spread of this highly infectious virus:
short-term letting flouts social distancing rules; and
the continual movement of strangers in and out of buildings increases the risk of spreading disease.
Since COVID-19 began, apartments previously used for short-stays either have been sold to owner-occupiers or have reverted to long-term rentals. Many buildings are now reporting to us that they have zero short-stay apartments.
Despite this extraordinary outcome and perhaps not surprisingly, We Live Here has been made aware of a few operators trying to find a way back into residential buildings.
Police have been in contact with Airbnb over concerns that the short-stay platform is continuing to operate illegally.
Now the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has jumped into the battle, releasing a new directive effectively banning Airbnb …
The DHHS published the directive on its website. Section 11 (2) of the new directive specifically proscribes “private holiday rental facilities including Airbnb” and “serviced apartments” and only allows limited operations for emergency accommodation.
If you see any illegal short-stay activity in your building, report it immediately to the police assistance hotline on 131 444. Your owners’ corporation (OC) should issue a breach notice to the lot owner.
If your OC rules are silent on health and safety, you can breach a holiday-let lot owner under the Owners’ Corporation Act 2006 model rules, which apply to all OCs in this scenario – rule 1.1:
“A lot owner or occupier must not use the lot, or permit it to be used, so as to cause a hazard to the health, safety and security of an owner, occupier, or user of another lot.”
You can also contact We Live Here if you require any advice or assistance.
Short-stay apartment dodges fines and tries again
If you needed proof that the short-stay industry lacks regulation, consider the case of 15 people who were slapped with $1652 fines for partying in a short-stay apartment in Southbank just prior to the July lockdown.
Announcing the fines, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton labelled the actions of some Victorians “stupid, selfish and reckless”.
Soon after, red-faced police were forced to reverse the fines. It turns out that restrictions at the time allowed for up to 20 people to gather “at tourist accommodation.”
Not content with dodging $25,000 in fines, the same apartment was used for another potentially COVID-19-spreading party just days after the lockdown started.
With the new DHHS directive, we hope this time the fines stick!
Cladding – speak up
Does your building have combustible cladding and you haven’t received a notice of inspection from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) or a building order from your local council?
If you haven’t heard anything, it means that you are not on the list of buildings to get financial assistance. You might be able to change this situation if you act quickly.
Email the VBA at [email protected] and let them know that you have combustible cladding and you want your building inspected.
In your email you are welcome to say that We Live Here referred you.
You may need to wait for up to six weeks to be advised of an inspection date. Let us know if there are excessive delays.
Minister Wynne’s plan to fast-track cladding
In June this year, the Victorian government announced a plan to accelerate the cladding rectification program from 100 buildings per year to 400 over two years.
Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) was expected to work with a select group of reputable builders to work without profit.
Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said, “only reputable builders will be eligible for the accelerated program. Those found to have done the wrong thing will not be able to participate.”
“This is a chance for the original builders to become part of the solution and keep their workers employed during these challenging times.”
No details were provided about costing or processes. It is difficult to see how the program could achieve its stated aim of doubling the speed of rectification.
An injection of funds to CSV to speed up the established program would perhaps be a better way to go.
Since the announcement of the plan no further information has been forthcoming from the government, and it looks as though it may have been quietly shelved.
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