NSW’s short-term rental industry is heading for a “train wreck” because of state government mismanagement likely to result in thousands of properties being barred from trading next week, multiple industry figures say.
The issue surrounds the already delayed rollout of the government’s compulsory short-term rental registration scheme. Owners must register their properties by November 1, the same day all NSW travel restrictions are lifted, or be banned from taking guests.
New short-term letting laws – under which unhosted rentals in busy markets such as Sydney, the far North Coast and South Coast can only let their properties for 180 days – also apply from that date.
By Friday, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said 19,000 properties had signed up.
The Australian Short-Term Rental Association (ASTRA), estimates there are more than 50,000 properties using the online aggregators and that there could be up to 80,000 short-term rentals in NSW in total.
Complicating matters is that all short-term rentals in NSW must also meet stringent new fire safety rules, which require expensive equipment and have caused financial angst among owners short-changed by having no guests through COVID-19 lockdowns.
This aspect has been pushed back to March 1 as a result. Some property managers speculate that because no fire safety certification is required to confirm work has been carried out many owners will “wing it” and falsely claim they meet the standards.
“It’s a train wreck,” said one industry leader.
Airbnb and Vrbo, which manages short-term listings across the Stayz and Expedia platforms, will delist properties that do not have a government registration number from November 1.
Eacham Curry, director of government and corporate affairs at Expedia Group, said the initiative has been under-resourced and poorly executed.
“We are concerned that there will be people who will not be registered in time,” said Mr Curry.
“We’re ready to comply with the code, we want to comply with the code but the thing that prevents [that] is the lack of proper resourcing for customer service.”
Lisa Peterson from L’Abode, a short-term rental management company, described the process as a shambles and estimates she will lose about 50 per cent of her short-term rentals.
“We’ve already been hit so hard by COVID and then they slap this on you – could they not have parked this to let everybody recover?” Ms Peterson said.
“It’s a shambles and everybody’s fed up with the red tape. They’ve just fired this registration out with no thought behind it.
“I think they’ve had no idea of how it actually works. We’ve got so many questions around the whole thing and we’re just not getting any answers.
“They don’t have that support in the back-end. Nobody can get through to them, nobody can email them, nobody can call them, and they don’t ever reply.”
ASTRA chairman Rob Jeffress said the process has been poorly managed by the Department of Planning, which made no effort to promote it.
“There is going to be a serious challenge over this next week to get the properties registered, and I guess that’s going to lead to a lot of properties being delisted.
“It’s just a shame there hasn’t been good management of this process over the past six or eight months.”
Rebecca Cribbin, the founder and owner of Holiday Rental Specialists, said the registration timing could not be worse and comes after the business had to cancel 1900 bookings worth $3 million during the recent NSW lockdown.
“I hate to slag off the government again, but they’ve shot from the hip, put it out before they were ready to put it out. It’s not been thought out well at all,” Ms Cribbin said.
Gabriel Sarajinsky from HomeHost said: “The government is useless, absolutely useless, you call them up and can’t get an answer out of them.
“Some of the detail in the forms to sign up and register the properties, it’s just not that user-friendly. We’ve basically got our advice from other property managers.
“The few times I’ve called to get someone in government to assist and explain how things, they can’t explain it, they don’t know. It’s very frustrating.”
A department spokesperson said there had been regular stakeholder meetings to work through the process and that all technical issues have been resolved.