It sounds so warm and fuzzy – the sharing economy, where people throw open their doors to strangers who can spend a couple of nights in a far flung home.
But sharing wears a bit thin when that home is two doors down from your apartment, and the delightful strangers are a constant stream of bucks on a night out, screaming drunk teens or the couple who insist on arguing in the hall straight from their flight on the red-eye.
Any glance at Airbnb, Stayz or similar websites shows just how many apartment owners have decided to cash in.
In Perth, more than 300 ‘whole apartments’ are listed for rent on Airbnb, with an average cost of $153/night. A bargain $59 will get you a 1960s one-bedder in West Leederville with just enough space to swing a small cat. For $706/night you can get a CBD penthouse that sleeps eight including massive rooftop balcony.
In the middle are a host of apartments in major complexes – and a lot of annoyed neighbours.
“We are getting a rising number of complaints from residents in strata complexes who say a neighbour is operating their unit as a kind of hotel,” says Colliers International strata manager.
“They complain about noise, people coming and going, people turning up and getting drunk by the pool or partying, and generally not treating the place the same way that a resident might.
“Most complex bylaws clearly say that you can’t run a commercial venture out of the property and allow people access to the apartments but often it isn’t even the owner who is renting out the apartment, it is a tenant.”
Some tenants see an opportunity in renting out their pad a couple of nights a week and making as much if not more than their full week’s rent. But there are also ‘professional tenants’ who rent a property and furnish it, just never move in – instead using it to run their short-stay business.
It’s a slightly different approach taken by owners, with some living in their units but renting it out occasionally and others recouping a year’s mortgage repayment in a few busy months over summer.
But there is a growing push-back by owners and permanent residents against sharers and their guests.
In New York, legal action by the State’s Attorney General in 2014 found 72 per cent of all Airbnb rentals there were illegal, including people in rent-controlled apartments subletting them out at huge profits.
In Melbourne, a group called We Live Here has started up, taking on the short-stayers and defending the rights of residents, defined as “a person occupying a lot in a high density area … for 30 days or more” – no couch surfers need apply.
Locally, the council in Peppermint Grove knocked back a resident’s Airbnb-ing in December, Bayswater has warned ratepayers taking short-stayers without permission face a $200,000 fine and Cottesloe is drafting a new policy after blocking a Marine Parade apartment complex from transferring from residential to serviced apartments.
But as the number of complexes offering Airbnb in the City of Perth demonstrates, the threat of a $200,000 fine isn’t enough to deter many owners.
Colliers International Residential Head of Sales and Marketing Daniel Crotty says that while councils are more active in the area, there is also an argument that can be made by owners who believe they have the right to rent out their properties as they see fit.
“The law hasn’t really caught up with this area and there will be more changes before we find equilibrium between owner rights and resident rights,” he says.
“Right now, it’s a legal minefield.”