Understanding the short stay reality to reduce bad behaviour.

Image of a short stay guest receiving keys to an apartment

For those living in multi-dwelling properties, the idea of short stay accommodation may conjure some negative experiences.

While there are many groups advocating for tougher restrictions and legislation on short stays in strata, the current reality is that an Owners Corporation is limited in what it can do to manage them.

A restrictive covenant can be placed on a lot, however this needs to be registered on the Plan of Subdivision and would require a unanimous resolution (all lot owners in agreeance) to have applied to an existing building; a near impossible feat.

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Trying to prevent a unit from being used as a short stay via the rules would be discrimination but working towards an enjoyable experience for the resident and the whole building is achievable.

Establishing an open relationship with the owner creates the opportunity to stop bad behaviour. The Owners Corporation should ensure the owner has the rules, understands the regulations, and appreciates the vision of the building.

The owner is ultimately responsible for the behaviour of their tenants (including short stay tenants) so explaining to the owner what can result in a breach will ensure they are communicating the right messaging to their guests.

With the recent changes to subsection 159A of the Owners Corporation Act 2006, there is less of a grey area regarding what can and cannot be breached on when it comes to short stays in strata.

This section outlines that an owner, occupier or manager may make a complaint to the Owners Corporation about a breach of the conduct proscriptions by a short-stay occupant. This could include creating unreasonable noise, interfering with the peaceful enjoyment of another lot, causing a hazard to the health, safety and security of any person and obstructing the lawful use of, or damaging/altering the common property.

Under section 169D subsection (a) if a unit has at least three breach notices issued within a twenty-four-month period an application can be made to VCAT to have a prohibition order placed on the unit to prevent it from being used as short stay accommodation.

Discouraging a short stay in strata can be difficult, but some properties are getting creative.

For example, some have implemented inductions for equipment and facilities such as car stackers, pools, and gyms, to help educate the short-term residents. By enforcing the inductions – often done through restricting access via fob systems, until the induction is complete – patrons are less likely to book a room for 1-2 nights but stay for a longer period.

An advantage of a longer stay is that the persons are less likely to create an incident, noting that this can have them removed.

Understanding where the Owners Corporation stands with short stay tenants is also important. This should be clearly communicated to owners of short stay lots so they understand the risk they are taking on.

For example, keys to the residency should not be held by building staff, and permission to install key safes on common property should be carefully considered. This protects the Owners Corporation from any liability should something go wrong. Any incidents regarding stolen or broken goods should be reported directly to the Police.

Further, the Owners Corporation only contacts the owner to recover costs, and the owner will then need to contact their short stay provider (Airbnb, booking.com, etc) for insurance purposes. If the issue is not resolved within a timely manner, this can also be sent to VCAT to recoup costs.

It’s worth also reminding owners that since the recent updates to the OC Act, both they, and their tenant/guest can be liable when a rule is broken, and that insurance excesses and increases in premium can be levied against them, adding an extra urgency to encouraging good behaviour from their short stay guests.

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Residents of the building, being either owners or occupiers, need to understand that short stays are legal, and an additional source of income for many owners. Keeping this reality in mind will help your community take the right steps to protect all parties.

This article was first written for and published by The VIC Strata Magazine.