New obligations for Airbnb and other short-term accommodation hosts in Victoria’s Bass Coast

New obligations for Airbnb and other short-term accommodation hosts in Victoria’s Bass Coast
  • PublishedSeptember 16, 2023

So earlier this year, he and his wife jumped at the opportunity to buy a home of their own in the idyllic beachside town.

Peter, who doesn’t wish to include his last name, said they were considering renting out the property to holiday-goers for roughly two months of the year.

“We didn’t buy this property to do AirBnb, we bought the property because we want to use it,” he said.

“But then you’ve got the repayments, and of course, interest rates have gone up dramatically.

“Council rates are quite high, all that kind of stuff … we’re just simply trying to subsidise some of our expenses.”

As of this week, people who use their properties as short-term accommodation in the Bass Coast will face added obligations as local laws come into effect.

It comes amid reports the Victorian government is preparing to unveil the first stage of its housing statement, which will include a consumer levy on short-term accommodation that could be as high as 7.5 per cent. 

Two people sit on a bench at the Phillip Island beach foreshore
Phillip Island is a popular tourist destination for many Melbourne residents.(ABC Gippsland: Georgia Lenton-Williams)

The Bass Coast Shire Council’s measures include a $300 annual fee for accommodation providers and an online platform where they must register the property.

The controls require hosts to take responsibility for their guests’ behaviour by nominating a contact person who is available at any time who can travel to the property within two hours.

Peter said he was concerned about the impacts of the rules.

“How are we going to control … the people who stay here,” he said.

Bass Coast Shire mayor Michael Whelan said the council was trying to maintain high accommodation standards.

He said short-term accommodation raised issues with waste management, guest behaviour and availability of affordable accommodation.

a man wearing glasses speaks into a microphone
Michael Whelan says the region has more than 2,500 short stay rentals.(Supplied: Bass Coast Shire Council)

Nearly two million people visit the Bass Coast annually, and there are estimates that number will grow to more than four million by 2035.

Other Victorian councils with high visitor numbers have introduced annual charges for short-term accommodation hosts, including Frankston, Mornington Peninsula and Warrnambool Shire.

The City of Melbourne opened consultation for its new short-term accommodation policy earlier this month.

Crackdowns on short term rentals are occurring worldwide, with New York City introducing legislation this month restricting the number of guests and a ban on renting whole apartments or houses.

Issues with ‘party houses’

Like in many tourism hotspots, tensions have long been simmering in the Bass Coast between holiday makers and permanent residents.

Cr Whelan said accommodation providers needed to ensure guests behaved appropriately.

“The ones that aren’t well managed, they become effectively party houses,” he said.

“If the visitors that are there at that particular time are noisy, having parties … it’s within reason that the neighbours have someone that can contact to get the matter rectified.”

Peter said he wouldn’t want his guests to disturb anyone if he used his house for short-term accommodation.

A real estate sign on a building in the main street of Phillip Island
A high proportion of houses in the Bass Coast are used as holiday homes.(ABC Gippsland: Georgia Lenton-Williams)

“But what am I going to do if I come in here at 12 o’clock on a Saturday night and there’s six teenagers screaming and yahooing? What effect is that going to have that I’ve turned up,” he said.

First National Real Estate Phillip Island director Kendall O’Garey said managing short-term accommodation was one of the agency’s main jobs, and the company would likely serve as the contact on clients’ behalf if issues with guests occurred.

“It strictly says on all the paperwork, no parties … we try to avoid those danger clashes as much as we can or else it causes a lot of work,” he said.

AirBnb wants statewide regulation

Mr O’Garey said his agency used about eight different websites to manage accommodation bookings.

“Especially coming in from now … through Christmas, into autumn,” he said.

One of the biggest short-stay accommodation platforms, AirBnb, is calling for a broader approach to regulation.

Airbnb Australia and New Zealand head of public policy, Michel Crosby, said the Victorian government was better placed to manage the sector than the state’s 79 councils.

“Airbnb has proposed a series of measures which include the introduction of statewide registration schemes and codes of conduct in every state,” he said in a statement.

The Victorian government did not confirm or deny The Age’s reports of a new statewide levy, which would be the first of its kind in Australia.

“We know there’s no more important issue than housing – that’s why we’re working hard on a housing package and will have more to say soon,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.

New South Wales has been one of the first state governments to enforce measures, including a 180-day limit for short-term rentals in Sydney and some regional local government areas.

Mr Crosby said AirBnb supported “opt-in tourism levies”.

“[The levies] would work by charging the guest a small fee at the time of booking,” he said.

“This would mean every accommodation booking in Victoria contributes to new housing projects or supports local infrastructure.

“It would also achieve this without placing the costs on local ratepayers or small businesses.”

Empty houses everywhere

Mr O’Garey said only 20 per cent of houses were permanently occupied in some parts of Phillip Island.

“A lot of the property here has been owned for a long time,” he said.

“Those properties are kept in the same family for a number of decades, so you don’t get the turnover.”

Bass Coast resident and Housing Matters advocacy group member, Donald Elsmore, said homelessness in the area was increasing.

a man wearing glasses stands outside.
Donald Elsmore says food relief services in the Bass Coast can’t cope with high demand.(ABC Gippsland: Georgia Lenton-Williams)

“The number of people who are coming to the food banks is increasing, the needs of those people are increasing.”

He said his group tried to find accommodation for people in need throughout the Bass Coast.

“With a shire that has such a low occupancy rate, with houses sitting vacant for most of the year, the obvious place to put people would be in vacant houses,” he said.

“But those vacant houses are not currently available.”

Cape Paterson beach with some people on it.
There are many empty houses in Bass Coast’s beachside communities.(ABC Gippsland: Georgia Lenton-Williams)

Mr Elsmore said council-run caravan parks used to serve as a last resort for people doing it tough, but the Bass Coast Shire Council didn’t operate them anymore.

“There’s not even a public place where people can … get accommodation overnight if they’re living out of their van,” he said.

“There’s no crisis shelter that I’m aware of. There’s no emergency shelter that I’m aware of. The local accommodation providers … aren’t serving the needs of those people who have immediate accommodation needs because of cost, or location, or because they simply don’t want them.


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