Since 2008 Airbnb has been making its mark on the world. Based in San Francisco, California, “Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. And with world class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions”.
The website and app have become a wave of the future and are widely accepted by millennials and others with extra space to spare as a key feature of travel and an easy way to make a buck.
With Airbnb’s far-spreading reach, it’s no surprise that they’ve stretched into Queensland. The “Sunshine State” with its warm tropical climate is a tourism mecca. Roughly 22% of revenue comes from tourist accommodations.
Brisbane is one of the key areas of concern for body corporates. In the suburban area Airbnb has not posed any problems but in three of the tallest downtown buildings, especially when there are major sporting events going on, residential areas become flooded with Airbnb short term stayers who often are a nuisance for permanent tenants.
Airbnb is just one of many apps that are paving the way for the future. The world is changing with new features like uber (people aren’t always hailing cabs), Airbnb (people aren’t always booking hotels), and tinder (people are no longer going on traditional dates). Things are changing so quickly that bylaws are often outdated by the time they are published. In the most recent BCCM review recommendations (released in December 2014) the topic of short-term letting restrictions was not even included because Airbnb in Brisbane and other parts of Australia was not on the radar as it is today. Technology is moving at a faster pace than lawmakers can keep up. And with all change comes challenges.
Some key challenges people are reporting due to Airbnb stayers is more noise complaints and common area vandalism. This has become a problem in the three tallest apartment complexes in the downtown area of Brisbane during music festivals, sporting events, and other major events in the area.
The answer really is nothing. The limitations of the body corporate are that they have little power when it comes to overnight guests. The best they are able to do is create bylaws that apply to all residents of a building for example pool hours and rules about the use of common property. Laws that apply to regular tenants also apply to all guests… i.e. you can call the police for late night noise violations. What people often find surprising though is that a body corporate has no authority inside a housing unit.
The BCCM Act, section 180, states that the bylaws cannot restrict the type of residential use of a property which includes overnight guests and owners renting out units. This includes rules that discriminate between long term and short term residents that would limit access to common areas. Just like a homeowner cannot stop their neighbors from having a house party or smoking on their property apartment residents cannot do anything more than call the police with noise complaints or vandalism reports.
Queensland, specifically doesn’t allow these types of bylaws. Without unreasonably interfering in the lives of others, which has its own long process to address with law enforcement, there are little residents of Queensland can do about disliking Airbnb tenants. Just because you don’t like the overnight guests, however, doesn’t mean you have a case. Conduct needs to interfere unreasonably with others to become an actionable offense. In community living, some noise and interference are to be expected. In Brisbane, outside the larger towers in the downtown area, there hasn’t been complaints or problems but if you want to see if your property is being occupied by short-term visitors you can google your building name.
When dealing with conduct or noise complaints, like any other law, you are subjected to the burden of proof. Without evidence, he said she said will not get you very far. With new buildings going up the only other requirements can come from planning rules and permissions which are subject to local authorities based on the approval they have for specific lot use and these can vary from building to building. “A body corporate cannot enforce the council’s requirements, but it can complain to the council about the lack of compliance with the planning approval”. Again though, these dealings apply to all tenants and are not based on tenure unless specifically stated by building rules. The building classification argument has been run and done too. It has been confirmed that there is nothing in the residential classes which preclude the short-term use of lots.
Queensland’s body corp laws are 20 years old and while some amendments and tweaking have been done a full review is underway but is yet to be complete. There may be changes to come in the future but with as fast as technology is changing policy is often unable to keep up. What is important to protect oneself as a tenant who is participating in Airbnb is to know your building rules and policies and share these with incoming tenants. Additionally, check with your insurance company to make sure these types of visitors (commercial) are covered because this is not always the case and remember that income from space renting is subject to taxes.
Additionally, if you want to read the bylaws yourself you can find them here at http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/qld/consol_act/bcacma1997388/s180.html