Airbnb’s Friendly Buildings Program has Strata managers concerned

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A CONTROVERSIAL new program being proposed by Airbnb to increase transparency has NSW Strata managers concerned.

The Airbnb Friendly Buildings Program allows owners corporations to access details of the Airbnb lets in their buildings, place caps on the number of nights they can be let and take a percentage of the earnings.

The program is currently a pilot in the US and is only available in select buildings.
Airbnb executives have recently visited Australia to present their Friendly Buildings Program to a number of strata management companies.

The program requires Airbnb hosts and their owners’ corporation to sign an agreement that includes a “rule book” for home sharing in the building, as well as insurance of $1 million for every booking, which has been welcomed by some experts.

According to Airbnb’s website the program allows for increased transparency that includes when residents are hosting, how many guests are staying with them, and how much money is being earned.

But one of Australia’s largest strata management companies say they’re concerned there’s not enough on offer for owners, with serious doubt over how well Airbnb will keep up their end of the bargain to protect communities.

Meanwhile the Government response to an18-month parliamentary inquiry into short term letting is expected to be handed down next Wednesday, April 19.

The inquiry was held in Tweed Heads and Sydney with Member for Tweed Geoff Provest MP the Deputy Chair of the Committee which recommended that short-term letting be allowed with regulations for hosts that rent their property for long periods.

Short-term rentals are currently prohibited in the Tweed Shire in all rural areas and the majority of residential areas. Tweed Shire Council has estimated there are upwards of 2,000 short-term holiday lettings in the Tweed.

Andrew Jakes is State Manager for Ace Body Corporate Management’s New South Wales operations, and with thousands of lots under management in the City of Sydney’s boundaries, he has observed the full effect that short term lets have had on local property owners.

“There are too many remaining risks for owners corporations on a security and liability level for this program to be considered a win for strata community living.”

“Airbnb and other short term letting services pose serious challenges to owners corporations, and we’re adamant that very few owners will see some basic rules and a percentage deal as a program that adequately looks after their community’s best interests.”

Mr Jakes says the biggest concern put forward by owners of properties Ace manages, is the threat short term letting poses to building security.

“Several of our managers recounted stories of recent theft, occurring from owners leaving swipe cards and keys in letterboxes for their Airbnb guests.”

“Over the past year or so, instances of oversized padlocks, or ‘mini safes’ being placed on bike racks or hand rails outside of buildings have grown and we don’t see that this program offers any solution with regard to this problem.”

“Once inside the building, thieves can target multiple apartments quickly transforming this into a huge issue for owners corporations to deal with.”

Mr Jakes says the promise of a rule book and Airbnb’s willingness to regulate hosts better sounds great on paper, but owners will rightfully have concerns that help won’t be right around the corner, when stays go south.

“From an owners perspective, Airbnb needs to have a solid ‘reporting channel’ from owners to service administrators in case of any mishaps, and we’re not confident that’s the case.”

“We have seen too many instances of Airbnb’s taking a ‘not our problem’ stance when it comes to issues that arise from their home-sharing platform.”

“Overcrowded apartments is one such issue that comes to mind given that Airbnb is reluctant to punish hosts for their guests behaving unlawfully.”

“If owners corporations are going to open up their communities to an Airbnb ‘free for all’ of sorts, they need a better deal when it comes to protecting their own.”