AirBnB pushes for ‘bed tax’, mobilises hosts to lobby govt
AIRBNB is mobilising their 29,000 hosts against the State Government in a bid to move control of the burgeoning homesharing sector away from councils and AirBnB's opponents, the hotel sector.
The company has warned it will be urging all its hosts to email MPs demanding a "fair" regulation of the industry and end what it calls the piecemeal controls being brought in by councils.
The company instead wants a "bed tax" applied across the whole short-term stay industry - a move vehemently opposed by the hotel sector and so far rejected by the State Government.
The hotel sector's greatest concern is not mum and dad owners who rent out a room in their home but commercial operators who set up blocks of rentals like "quasi-hotels" but don't face the overheads and safety obligations of traditional operators.
According to AirBnB, it has 29,000 hosts in Queensland, 5300 in Brisbane. Hosts take paying guests an average 32 nights a year, or 935,000 guest nights in total across the state and earn an average $5300 a year.
But battle lines are being drawn in some developments between short-term renters and permanent residents.
One unit owners group is warning AirBnB and other "transitory" rentals are putting insurance cover at risk and, in some instances, making life hell for long-term residents tired of dealing with endless tourist noise in residential unit blocks.
Tourism minister Kate Jones says the Government's industry reference group, which includes AirBnB and the hotel sector as well as councils and tourism bodies, will convene for its final meeting this week, with a final set of recommendations goes to the Government by year end.
AirBnB head of policy Brent Thomas said Queensland's rules are "confusing, out-of-date and are acting as a handbrake on growth."
"South Australia, Tasmania and recently NSW have all introduced fair rules for home sharing."
"Queensland needs fair, forward-looking and statewide rules for home sharing to give the community certainty and confidence. At stake is the ability of Queenslanders to earn a little extra to pay the mortgage or bills and the future of Queensland tourism. Most Queenslanders would reasonably ask - why should they have to go to council or jump through red tape to just share a room or their own home responsibly from time to time?"
Under NSW's new regimen, at-home hosts can rent 365 days a year and absent hosts 180 days.
Minister Kate Jones said she wanted to "make it as easy as possible for visitors to enjoy our great state".
"But I'm also mindful that we need to give homeowners piece of mind," she said.
"We've followed through on our commitment to talk directly with industry representatives to get the best outcome for everyone.
"But it's important that we strike the right balance.
"I met with the LGAQ last week to discuss the implications of the New South Wales government's decision and I'm planning to meet with AirBnb soon about this matter.
"So far, the government's industry reference group has met three times.
"On Thursday, I'll chair the group's fourth and final meeting.
"They'll then prepare a set of recommendations which will be considered by the government this year."
Sunshine Coast council last week moved to put a "transitory accommodation" levy on its rates for anyone providing AirBnB or similar rentals, which starts at $370 a year but rises to thousands depending on the value of the property.
Northgate mum-of-three Louise Gotting says the space she lets out through AirBnB under her house is helping helps pay the mortgage.
"It's been a huge benefit," Ms Gotting said. "I would never have thought anyone would want to stay under three kids but we've met some amazing people."
"Some are really happy to talk and they are from all over the world."
She said she treats it like a small business, declaring all income to the Australian Taxation Office for the 89 bookings in the past year.
Like other hosts, she's looking for certainty, not regulation, saying there would be "huge ramifications" for the family if the government was to put restrictions on the sector.