Stay Port Stephens founder calls for cool heads as state government responds to perceived Airbnb problems

LET IT BE: Stay Port Stephens principal Michelle Lock doesn't want new legislation to hurt what she said was a crucial industry to Nelson Bay. Picture: Sam Norris
LET IT BE: Stay Port Stephens principal Michelle Lock doesn't want new legislation to hurt what she said was a crucial industry to Nelson Bay. Picture: Sam Norris

The principal of a boutique property management service has urged Port Stephens Council to exercise caution should the state government follow through on tough new legislation for short-let accommodation.

The state government wants to give councils greater powers that would include the ability to restrict just how long holiday homes might be rented in any given year.

The legislation will respond to the explosion of short term city property rentals, through online portals like Airbnb, that’s put upward pressure on long lease accommodation in Sydney, like it has in Berlin and New York.

The reforms will would also see hosts or guests who commit two serious breaches of the code, within two years, banned from using online booking platforms for five years, and placed on an exclusion register.

“The legislation needs to support owners and managers who are trying to do the right thing,” urged Stay Port Stephens founder Michelle Locke.

“Short-term properties is what’s supported the growth of Nelson Bay.”

Airbnb has welcomed the move. It’s gone back to its roots to support people who wish to share their home as opposed to unscrupulous investors who buy-to-let.  

“With the cost-of-living painfully high, these fair and innovative rules will make it simple and easy for people and working families to share their own homes to make extra income,” Airbnb’s Australian country manager Sam McDonagh said. 

HomeAway, the new home of Stayz, has also struck a conciliatory note saying it will be “making the case” with regional councils “not to set arbitrary caps” on let periods.

Sydney home owners won’t be allowed to rent their homes out for more than 180 in any year, unless the home is their principle residence. Regional councils would also have the power to enforce the same cap if they elect to.

“Short-term rental accommodation is an important driver of economic growth and jobs for tourism destinations like Port Stephens,” HomeAway director of corporate affairs Eacham Curry. 

“Short-term rental accommodation also ensures that tourism destinations have the capacity to meet tourism demand during peak holiday season.”    

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The other bugbear of short lets has been party houses. Mrs Locke said she went to great lengths to discourage this type of client.

“The vast majority of our guests are families with children and mature couples who want to share a house with close friends,” she said.

“You can put a lot of house rules into place that avoid any problems and it’s being done without legislation. 

“My owners would be mortified if their guests disrupted their neighbours. In reality it’s quite the opposite, the neighbours of the homes often don’t even know it’s a short term let.”

Mrs Locke has built a career around short let property management and said heavy handed rules would do untold damage to not only her, but her clients.

“These people I manage property for have invested their livelihoods in these properties, they’re mum and dad investors who rely on the income, and in many cases these are the homes they hope to retire to one day,” she said.

“I love the tourists this industry helps bring to town but I want to ensure that we keep it a peaceful place.”