WA Government to implement recommendations from the short stay inquiry

WA Government to implement recommendations from the short stay inquiry

The state government will adopt nearly all of the recommendations made from the recent parliamentary inquiry into short-stay accommodation.

The 2019 Parliamentary Inquiry Levelling the Playing Field - Managing the impact of the rapid increase of Short-Term Rentals in WA aimed to introduce better management of the industry at a community level.

The inquiry presented 10 recommendations to improve outdated and inconsistent policy governing short-term rentals, and create greater certainty for the tourism industry, accommodation providers and guests.

The inquiry found that short-term rentals were a genuine income source for some people and are increasingly widely used by guests; however there was no regulation of the industry and numerous examples of adverse impacts on neighbours and communities.

The state government has responded to the recommendations, including investigating appropriate regulatory or legislative frameworks that could meet the needs of this rapidly changing sector.

A key recommendation is the adoption of a flexible, low cost and simple registration scheme for all short-term accommodation providers across WA.

Some of the actions to be undertaken include:

  • Amending land use definitions to differentiate between hosted and unhosted accommodation;
  • Investigating the introduction deemed provisions into all planning schemes for hosted accommodation to be exempt from local government approval;
  • Developing legislative or regulatory mechanisms to require the display of a valid registration number for short-term rentals advertised on online platforms;
  • Updating strata title guidance to include powers and processes open to strata companies to manage short-term rentals; and
  • Development of an education campaign to ensure owners, property managers and purchasers are aware of their obligations regarding short-term rental properties.

An interagency working group been established and the state government is working with local governments and accommodation providers to ensure that all short-term rental properties are registered and display a valid registration number.

Planning minister Rita Saffioti said they acknowledged the value that the community places on having access to short-term rentals and the contribution this sector is making to our economy through emerging service industries and new jobs - but we must also make sure there are appropriate protocols in place to ensure sustainability and support our 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," she 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 WA have a choice of accommodation options now and into the future.

"Any registration scheme for short-term rental accommodation will ensure that guests know that they are protected and will be supported by a public education campaign for owners, property managers and purchasers."

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman was pleased the government has accepted nine of the ten recommendations contained in the report.

Mr Redman requested the Parliamentary Inquiry into the short stay accommodation sector in response to issues raised by a number of registered accommodation providers in his electorate.

The key concerns related to unregistered and unhosted accommodation using online booking platforms.

"The emergence of on-line booking platforms has caused an upheaval in the tourism accommodation sector, creating an unequal playing field between traditional service providers and new short term accommodation providers," he said.

"There was never any intention of creating new rules for small scale home-based accommodation providers, however with unhosted properties it became apparent some form of regulation was needed to ensure compliance with land use planning, insurance, customer safety, licencing and taxation."

Mr Redman is pleased a working group, chaired by the Department of Planning, will develop a state-wide registration scheme.

This will provide confidence to consumers that properties meet regulated standards and will enable the collection of data.

The implementation of the recommendations will include a public education campaign regarding owner obligations, a state-wide mechanism for local governments to follow, and a registration process for accommodation advertised through online platforms.

"With the sector currently under pressure due to Coronavirus travel restrictions, and the perception Australia is on fire, accommodation providers need fair processes in place to ensure a level playing field," he said.

"I am pleased with the response and now ask the Government to be expeditious in implementing the recommendations to ensure registration processes are in place prior to the next summer tourist season."

Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokesperson Deb Noonan said they were satisfied with the government's response as they have agreed with the majority of the committee's recommendations.

Ms Noonan said the most important change was to ensure anyone who advertised short stay accommodation was registered and that online booking platforms must display the registration number.

"While there is currently an over-supply of unhosted holiday homes in the region it is unrealistic to restrict them," she said.

"We think it is better to make sure they are registered, meet all safety rules and pay appropriate rates and taxes.

"The federal government needs to tighten the GST and tax office rules that were drawn up before Airbhnb existed.

"Currently many illegal operators are blatantly avoiding paying tax which makes it unfair on registered accommodation providers."

City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley said the city was generally pleased with the government's response to the inquiry, and were cautiously optimistic that it would lead to improved regulation of short term rentals and holiday homes in WA.

"While not everyone will be pleased, the city thinks that the government looks to have got the balance about right," he said.

"Much of the government's response, in fact, is consistent with the submissions that the city made to the inquiry.

"Particularly pleasing are recommendations relating to the establishment of statewide registration requirements and requirements for online booking platforms to provide data.

"The city looks forward to playing a pro-active role in assisting the government in implementing its response."

Airbnb head of public policy Derek Nolan said noted the government's response to the parliamentary inquiry, particularly its support for home sharing as a valuable contributor to the state's tourism sector and a genuine income source for thousands of West Australians.

"Certainty about the future of home sharing is incredibly important for Airbnb hosts across WA who rely on the income they receive from hosting to make ends meet," he said.

"There are still important issues to be resolved including whether WA follows Tasmania, NSW and South Australia in implementing comprehensive statewide rules - or whether we create a complex, confusing patchwork of regulation where different rules apply across more than 130 WA councils.

"Alongside our community, we want to work collaboratively with the WA Government to develop best-in-class, statewide rules that will promote responsible home sharing, grow tourism and address the needs of hosts, guests and the broader community."

The Australian Hotels Association (WA) chief executive officer Bradley Woods said the government's response which recognised the need to even the playing field when it came to unregulated short stay accommodation properties and the platforms that hosted them.

"The chaotic explosion of unregulated short stay accommodation has jeopardised jobs, damaged community amenity, undermined investment and threatened the viability of many legitimate accommodation providers," he said.

"The AHA has long advocated for fair but strong regulation of the short stay accommodation sector and the government's response reflects the serious concerns within the community about illegal hotels operating in residential areas."