One Sydney council warned a homeowner renting out part of her
home to short term renters through Airbnb that she could be given a
million dollar fine for operating an "unauthorised" bed
and breakfast. That council later decided renting out a room in her
house was within the law, but other councils have deemed short-term
rentals breach residential zoning laws.
Some councils have demanded owners make expensive changes to
their property before they rent out a room. Other councils welcome
the influx of tourist money, and only step in if renters get too
Property law expert Rita Fisher of Stacks Law Firm says the law
has failed to keep up with the rapid growth of short-term rental
accommodation through websites such as Airbnb.
"There are now more than 15,000 Airbnb listings in the
Sydney area – double what it was 12 months ago. They are also
growing fast in regional centres, particularly in tourist areas
such as the Blue Mountains where I have my office, and along the
"There are many uncertainties in the law beyond just
whether renting out a room in your home complies with council
zoning laws," she said.
"What about insurance? What about safety standards for both
the owner and the renter? The current laws are confusing,
undefined, inconsistent and in many cases unfair."
A NSW parliament committee is currently holding public hearings
into the laws governing short-term holiday letting including the
websites Airbnb, Windu, Wotif and Stayz.
Tourist industry groups say they bring much-needed tourists to
regional areas. Hotel, hostel and bed and breakfast operators say
private home letters have an unfair advantage bypassing costs and
fire regulations, and pose potential risks for safety of guests and
Another factor is that many property owners are now more keen on
having short term rentals, so that people looking for a long term
place to live are frequently missing out to tourists. The taxman is
also worried about missing out on income made from renting a
"There is a real need to resolve these issues so that
everyone is satisfied," said Ms Fisher. "The law has to
catch up with the reality of what is going on. Sites such as Airbnb
have opened up tourism to new markets, and many tourists like the
personal contact of staying in someone's home.
"But there are potential problems with insurance and
safety. Home owners would be wise to get expert legal advice before
they offer rooms to let, and need to be aware of changes to the law
that might emerge from this current parliamentary
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