Kilmartin Knyvett Lawyers: Body Corporates and the Airbnb Craze

Since Airbnb came to Australia, it’s become increasingly popular, especially within apartment blocks.

It seems everyone is listing their unit on Airbnb!

This can cause endless headaches for a body corporate, particularly within a unit complex which wasn’t intended for short-term accommodation. However, there are some tricks to making the Airbnb craze work to the benefit of the body corporate community, which is good news.

Legislative Framework

As a general rule, the body corporate cannot restrict what happens behind the closed doors of a unit.

Section 180 of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 QLD says that the by-laws of a body corporate can’t restrict the type of residential use on a property. This includes an owner renting out a unit for:

• a short stay, such as an overnight stay (as is common on Airbnb); or
• renting the unit out for long term accommodation (for example a 6 month or 12 month lease).

By-laws which attempt to prohibit short term letting are unlawful and therefore, are unenforceable.

Typical challenges

The biggest problem with formulating bylaws which effectively regulate the Airbnb use is that there is limited legislation to guide a body corporate on the practical challenges which may arise from time to time.

This is concerning because a regular turnover of guests can cause issues such as:

• Guests not knowing about vital safety features;
• An increased need for maintenance of the common property;
• Guests being unaware of the day to day rules which might cause issues with parking, noise or accessibility to common property areas such as the gym, pool or BBQ area.

Pro-active steps for the body corporate

A great place to start when trying to deal with these issues, is to look at the bylaws of the body corporate. Bylaws are one of the best ways for a body corporate to exercise care (and some control) in this area.

For example, its often a good idea to ensure the bylaws require each owner to notify the body corporate of their unit being listed on Airbnb. Also, each guest stays in the unit should be provided with a copy of the bylaws within that community. If the bylaws are extensive, a summary of those bylaws applicable to the guests’ stay should suffice.

It’s also worth having the insurance policies of the body corporate reviewed so as to understand the full scope of what the body corporate is covered for. For example, it may be necessary to amend the bylaws to ensure appropriate safety measures are in place in those buildings, say in the case of an emergency.

Things to keep in mind

It’s important to remember that for many lot owners, Airbnb letting is a great short-term option in between securing long-term tenants, or for earning a bit of extra income… to pay those body corporate levies!

While the Airbnb trend is not without its challenges, in our experience many hick ups in this area can be worked out with the help of an experienced body corporate manager. This is great for the body corporate and a win for lot owners who can get the most out of their investment.

Author: Kilmartin Knyvett Lawyers

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