Airbnb regulations loom in WA

Image by Airbnb.
Image by Airbnb.

Airbnb regulations and guidelines are in the initial stages of development by WA Government agencies, planning minister Rita Saffioti confirmed in parliament last week.

Ms Saffioti said she had met with the City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley and chief executive officer Mike Archer who both outlined their concerns about unauthorised accommodation providers.

She agreed there needs to be a “basic level of regulation” and that existing small businesses already complied with “significant regulations to run a tourism business.”

“Some of the Airbnb places are legitimate. It happened in other states, like all these things, the concept is good,” she said.

“The whole ‘let’s rent out an extra room and be funky about it’ is a good idea but then it goes to the hardcore ‘let’s make a lot of money out of it.’”

Ms Saffioti said they had looked at metro versus regional and whether to let regional councils determine their own policies.

“The feedback I received from Busselton was that it does not want a situation in which Margaret River has this, Busselton has this and Bunbury has this because then people can play off each other,” she said.

“We will do more work on that and that work is underway.”

Bushy Lake Chalets owner Rob McDonald said the industry was calling for regulation after seeing 4 per cent unregulated growth each month which was unsustainable for traditional operators.

Mr McDonald said there was a massive dilution of the market in the region with so many people advertising their homes on Airbnb.

“There is now a website called AIRDNA which shows the makeup of the properties in a location, Margaret River has gone from 200 holiday homes in 2016 to 550 in 2018,” he said.

Mr McDonald said traditional operators who had been in the industry for a long time paid commercial rates, power, water and association levies to promote the area, were slowly seeing declining occupancy rates.

“Airbnb operators are supplementing other incomes or renting out a holiday home – which is a nice luxury to have – unfortunately we are trying to pay a mortgage and keep staff employed.

“These guys can undercut and undercut. We are regulated and have a lot of on costs it is just an unfair marketplace.”

In parliament, Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said there needed to be a fairer application of existing rules and a level playing field for all operators of unhosted properties.

Ms Mettam said there was a need for statewide governance to target operators who competed with wholesale properties, hotels and commercial operators which employed staff and invested in compliance.

“I have spoken to many people about the impact on existing providers and neighbourhoods and there is great support for the state government to take a leadership role in creating a fairer playing field,” she said

“We are looking at compulsory regulation for unhosted accommodation providers and some minimum standards.”