The war against airbnb

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 06 Februari 2015 | 20.01

Staying airbnb ... the Sydney Swans will stay at airbnb properties under their new sponsorship agreement. The team's best and fairest winner for 2014, Luke Parker, pictured. Picture: Phil Hillyard Source: News Corp Australia

AUSTRALIAN tourism operators are seeking government intervention to halt the rise of airbnb down under and force the company to abide by the same laws as the rest of the industry.

The San Francisco-based website that allows people to rent out rooms and other properties to travellers currently has about 30,000 listings across Australia and over a million worldwide.

Tourism Accommodation Australia and the Australian Hotels Association this week lodged documents with the New South Wales Government highlighting concerns with airbnb, at the same time as the company signed a new partnership with the Sydney Swans.

Under the deal, the Swans will stay in airbnb properties when they travel to AFL games around the country.

The growing popularity of airbnb in New York has triggered rallies from tourism operators competing with short term online holiday rentals. Pic: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews Source: AP

Acting CEO of Tourism Accommodation Australia Carol Giuseppi said they were concerned airbnb was an unregulated accommodation provider that supported neither jobs nor taxes.

"The government should not pick winners and losers in the marketplace," said Ms Giuseppi.

"Ensuring short-term online rental companies adhere to the same city, state and federal regulations as hoteliers is absolutely crucial if there is to be a level playing field within the accommodation sector."

She said airbnb operators were unlikely to be paying GST on rooms, and there were no consumer protection measures in place.

"Under the Australian Building Code requirements, there is a significant investment made by accommodation providers to ensure that they meet the safety and accessibility standards," Ms Giuseppi said.

"Most of the airbnb options have very few, if any, public safety measures in place for guests that traditional accommodation has."

Other jurisdictions have already addressed the airbnb quandary with changes to laws, or in the case of New York City, a series of lawsuits against "illegal" operators.

Clampdown ... opponents of Airbnb hold signs that reads 'My home Is Not A Hotel,' during a hearing at City Hall in New York. Picture: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews Source: AP

Grace Lawyers property law specialist Peter Ton said local governments had immediate responsibility to enforce building codes but many had put the issue of airbnb in the "too hard basket".

"It costs a lot of money to pursue prosecutions and to be frank there isn't any direct legislation that applies here; there is a vacuum in the regulation of airbnb," said Mr Ton.

The gaps in the law had even led to some apartment building managers taking matters into their own hands, by issuing security cards to tenants, and locking them out after 10pm.

"(Airbnb rentals) are causing a conflict between apartment owners who didn't buy into the building thinking they'd have a hotel room operating next door," Mr Ton said.

Home stay ... a Brisbane unit being rented on airbnb for $1000 a week. Picture: Russell Brown News Corp Australia Source: News Corp Australia

"Because there isn't clear regulation, people are taking things into their own hands a bit."

An airbnb spokesman said they encouraged hosts to familiarise themselves with locally set regulations which could be confusing.

"We're working with policy makers around the world on clear, progressive and fair laws that allow for home sharing," he said.

"The majority of our listings are outside the main hotel areas, so airbnb allows guests to stay in traditionally less visited suburbs, support local businesses there and provide an important boost to the local economy."

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