Call for crackdown on short-term rental sites like Airbnb
New Zealand apartment owners want tougher rules for short-stay rental companies such as Airbnb following reports of theft, damage to property and overcrowding.
Their plea comes as thousands of British and Irish Lions fans prepare to descend on the country for the June tour, with the scarcity of affordable hotel and motel rooms expected to prompt many to turn to short-term rentals.
Strata Community Organisation NZ (SCANZ), which represents Kiwi apartment owners, said issues need to be addressed before the predicted short-term letting explosion during the Lions Tour causes a "monumental holiday headache".
SCANZ president Joanne Barreto said tougher regulation is required to protect communities affected by short-stay accommodation.
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"It's time some serious thought was put towards ensuring that home sharing services like Airbnb do not cause critical disruptions to local strata communities.
"We are not anti-Airbnb or against short-stay platforms, as especially here in New Zealand where at times there is a short-supply of hotel rooms and other short-term accommodation, but there's a very clear need to protect residential and mixed-use strata communities better."
Airbnb announced earlier this month that it now has more than 20,000 listings in New Zealand.
Barreto, also director of Property 101 Group in Auckland, said the rise in short-stay, hotel-type accommodation can have serious implications for buildings that were not designed for that purpose.
"No one is against someone renting out their spare room or sofa but the reality that has been observed in most major cities in the world is that once Airbnb and the like take off, they quickly become commercialised with entire properties open to let".
Overseas, cities such as New York, San Francisco and Barcelona have imposed regulatory controls on Airbnb and SCANZ wants New Zealand's biggest cities - including Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch - to follow suit.
In Australia, property owners are also arguing that short-stay rentals are turning unit blocks into hotels, causing overcrowding, and that neighbours are being negatively affected.
Barreto said property owners across the Tasman are also concerned about the threat short-term letting poses to building security.
"We have heard many stories of recent theft, occurring from owners leaving entry swipe cards and keys in letterboxes for their Airbnb guests.
"Once inside the building, would-be thieves can target multiple apartments quickly, transforming this into a huge issue for bodies corporate to deal with."
New South Wales policymakers assessed a range of issues related to Airbnb and other short-term rental companies for more than 18 months before deciding this month to extend the consultation period with homeowners and short-term hosts.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, there is an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the effects of short-term letting, with a group representing Melbourne apartment owners demanding stronger protections against those who list properties on short-stay sites without regard for their neighbours' wellbeing.
Yet, despite "horror stories" of neighbours subjected to "party houses" listed for rent, Airbnb has removed just 81 of the some 26,000 properties listed in Victoria over the past year, The Age reported.
An Airbnb spokesperson said the company was unable to provide data on how many New Zealand listings have been removed.
Barreto said her organisation is aware of many Kiwi residents in popular Airbnb buildings who are fed up with short-stay tenants partying late into the night, blocking lifts and overcrowding apartments.
"What's often forgotten by guests is that in apartments, not only are you temporarily staying in someone else's home, but one wall separates you from their neighbours and out-of-control parties, like which we could see in apartments this Lion's Tour, is not what owners signed up for when they bought their home."
Airbnb recently introduced a new online "neighbour tool" which anyone can use to report problems but Barreto said the company needs a more "solid reporting channel".
The Airbnb spokesperson said "issues of any kind" are very rare as the overwhelming majority of hosts and guests are good neighbours and respectful travellers and that, when they do occur, the company works to resolve them.
"Hosting is a big responsibility and those who repeatedly fail to meet our standards and expectations will be subject to suspension or removal.
"We want to do everything we can to help our community members be good neighbours in the places they too call home, which is why we launched our neighbour tool."
If the company decides a listing doesn't meet its standards, it may limit, suspend, deactivate or cancel the host's account, she said.
The difficulty many Lions fans have had trying to find accommodation during the New Zealand tour highlighted the scarcity of hotel and motel rooms here, particularly during popular events.
Government research last year identified a likely shortage of more than 4500 hotel rooms by 2025, after taking into account existing construction plans for about 5200 new rooms.