12/02/2020 - 14:46

WA to regulate short-stay accommodation

12/02/2020 - 14:46

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UPDATED: The state government has said it will adopt most of the recommendations arising from a parliamentary inquiry into short-term accommodation, with Tourism Council WA and the Australian Hotels Association WA welcoming the pledge to apply more stringent regulation to the sector.

WA to regulate short-stay accommodation
Rita Saffioti says protocols have to be in place to support traditional accommodation providers. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

UPDATED: The state government has said it will adopt most of the recommendations arising from a parliamentary inquiry into short-term accommodation, with Tourism Council WA and the Australian Hotels Association WA welcoming the pledge to apply more stringent regulation to the sector.

That inquiry, which was carried out by the Economics and Industry Standing Committee and led by Labor MLA Jessica Shaw, heard more than 350 submissions, and presented 10 recommendations to improve competition in the sector.

In announcing the news earlier today, Planning Minister Rita Saffioti acknowledged the value short-term rentals contributed to the economy, but said appropriate protocols had to be in place to support traditional accommodation providers.

“This is a complex issue and we acknowledge that local governments across the state have had good and bad experiences in this sector - and that they will have specific requirements that need to be considered moving forward,” Ms Saffioti said.

“The real estate industry, planners, developers and local governments need clear guidance on requirements for the short-stay accommodation market and we will take a coordinated approach across government to achieve this.

“It is important that we support this valued and emerging part of our tourism industry and that we develop the appropriate governance to ensure visitors to Western Australia have a choice of accommodation options now and into the future.”

Today's announcement follows moves by the governments of Victoria and NSW to regulate the sector, placing restrictions on how short-term accomodation providers can operate their premises.

Ms Saffioti listed five actions the government would undertake in response to the inquiry.

That included amending land use definitions to ease the higher compliance burdens felt by traditional accomodation providers, updating strata title guidance to make property owners aware of their powers and appropraite process, and the development of an education campaign to ensure all stakeholders are aware of their obligations regarding the properties.

That's on top of an interagency group that has been established to work with local government and accommodation providers and help build a regulatory scheme to ensure all short-term accomodation providers display registration numbers.

In announcing the registration scheme, Ms Saffioti highlighted a need for the process to be flexible, low cost and simple.

AHA WA chief executive Bradley Woods gave particular praise to the implementation of a registration scheme, but cautioned that the system needed to include safety provisions and data sharing provisions, as well as financial penalties for those who did not comply with the rules.

“We know that mandatory registration is absolutely necessary, however, the devil will be in the detail,” Mr Woods said.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to consultation and look forward to working to ensure the final outcome is one that protects jobs and the economic contribution of the sector, while allowing for genuine, shared hosting to continue - something the AHA has always endorsed.”

Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall was less specific in his comments, instead welcoming the chance to provide certainty to operators.

“Present conditions can have an unfair impact on tourism businesses, housing affordability, accessibility and amenity for residents,” Mr Hall said.

“We look forward to working with the state government to implement the recommendations and ensuring a level-playing field for WA’s accommodation providers.”

While the likes of Airbnb have previously expressed consternation with the inquiry, Sydney-based, online holiday rental website Stayz welcomed the news, calling it an effective way of informing sensible rules for a growing sector.

It did, however, caution against providing strata schemes greater power in regulating short-term rentals, saying local governments should not have additional pwoers to regulate the sector.

"By clarifying the boundaries of our sector, a flexible register of all holiday rentals has the potential to ensure that local governments, communities and our industry can work together to improve amenity and help governments make more informed decisions about urban planning, infrastructure and municipal services," corporate affairs director Eacham Curry said.

"Stayz consistently advocates for state-wide regulation that contains a simple registration scheme for all holiday rental listings, a code of conduct that is backed by a strikes-based disciplinary regime, and an industry body to adjudicate compliance with the code of conduct."

Airbnb has been reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA chief executive Chris Rodwell said increased regulations would lessen accommodation choices for visitors, make accommodation more expensive and deter tourists to the state.

"Changes proposed by the state government’s Iquiry into Short-Stay Accommodation would render existing, legitimate short-stay hosts non-compliant, putting them at risk of large fines and significant legal penalties," Mr Rodwell said in a statement.

"In some areas, un-hosted short-stay accommodation may be disallowed completely."

He said WA would become the only state to adopt the registration scheme, putting the state's tourism sector at a "distinct disadvantage".

"Ultimately, this will reduce the incomes of families that make accommodation available on online platforms, as well as small businesses in the retail sector, and cafes and restaurants.

"CCIWA urges the government to put jobs and the growth of the tourism sector back at the forefront of this process."

Mr Rodwell said the regulations work against both the tourism sector and the government's efforts to reduce the regulatory burden on WA businesses.

He concluded the state government should look to South Australia and NSW's approaches to a state-wide, light-touch regulatory framework.

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