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AirBnB and Body Corporates: Is the Party Over?

Airbnb is wildly popular, both here in Queensland and around the world. The online service connects property owners with visitors looking to rent short term private accommodation. With over 115,000 Airbnb listings across the nation, the service lists everything from beds in shared rooms to lavish private villas, and copycat companies, like recent rival Stayz, are also on the rise. The sharing economy is here to stay. It’s heralded by many as a great way for tourists and business travellers to enjoy an authentic taste of the city they’re visiting while allowing lot owners to make some extra income. Sounds ideal, right?

Is there a party going on upstairs?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. In recent years, residents of apartment complexes have fallen victim to a new menace: the noisy Airbnb party unit. Visitors will hire an apartment for a few nights and host enormous parties, resulting in noise disturbances and even property damage. When they finally head home, the party isn’t over – they’re often quickly replaced by a new set of visitors ready to get just as rowdy. This exhausting cycle has neighbouring lot owners and body corporates stocking up on earplugs and wondering what can be done.

More often than not, party unit issues arise when properties are kept empty specifically for the purpose of short-term letting. These private rentals are often managed by commercial operators – a far cry from the popular image of mums and dads making a bit of extra cash by letting out the spare room! Party units are in huge demand from large groups like bucks and hens parties, students enjoying a break from uni or football fans in town for the grand final. While many visitors are quiet and respectful, there are plenty who aren’t. Residents frequently report noise disturbances, damage to common areas, illegal drug use and even burglaries.

Can body corporates simply prohibit lot owners from offering up their properties to Airbnb and the like? It’s not that simple. Current Queensland legislation doesn’t prevent them from offering short-term property rental. Anti-nuisance provisions in the Body Corporate and Community Management Act1997 specify that occupiers must not permit the use of the lot or the common property that causes a nuisance or hazard. This seems promising, but unfortunately these provisions are difficult to apply with respect to complaints arising from short term use.

Property owners in South-East Queensland are increasingly turning to their local councils in relation to this very modern problem. As yet, it’s not something all councils have addressed. There’s no indication that the substantial Moreton Bay Regional Council has taken any steps to respond to the Airbnb party unit issue, although residents are optimistic that this will be rectified in future.

Other councils have had more to say about the issue. Brisbane City Council responded not only to Airbnb, but to issues applying to any short term accommodation. Property owners who rent out their entire unit for stays of less than three months are likely to require development approval, with the application assessed against the City Plan’s section 9.3.22 Short Term Accommodation Code. Such short-term accommodation is primarily supported in hotspots like city centres and tourist areas.

Gold Coast City Council responded directly to the issue of nuisance and noise from ‘party houses’ in order to protect residents and minimise loss of trade for established hotels and motels. Local Law No. 19 (Control of Party House Noise) 2013 and Temporary Local Planning Instrument No. 4 (Party Houses) 2018 enable the regulation of ‘party houses’ within the Surfers Paradise area.

Are you dealing with excessive noise from a nearby Airbnb? Get in touch with the expert team at Body Corporate Law Queensland, a division of Hope Legal. They’ll do their best to help you resolve the situation.

Disclaimer: This article is intended as general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. For specific legal advice please contact us here.


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