‘Groundbreaking’ Coast AirBnb ban
ALMOST 100 homeowners in a swanky Gold Coast resort have become the first in Queensland to legally ban accommodation giant Airbnb.
Strata title experts believe the landmark decision will have widespread ramifications for thousands of property owners and put a dent in the lucrative short-term letting industry.
Fairway Island, a 85-lot subsidiary of Hope Island Resort, last month won a two-year legal fight against two property owners to ban short-term rentals in its complex.
The Southport Magistrates Court overturned an earlier ruling by the Body Corporate Commissioner, who said the two homeowners - Gary Redman and Andrew Murray - were entitled to let out their properties short-term.
The court said the Fairway Island body corporate was correct to impose an Airbnb ban because it had more power under the Building Units and Group Titles Act 1980 (Qld) (BUGTA).
Only 250 schemes in Queensland remain under the older BUGTA. Most body corporates are governed by the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (BCCMA), which has tougher restrictions on committees.
The Fairway Island body corporate wanted to stop properties in the gated community being used as party houses.
In April last year the Bulletin reported that the Gold Coast City Council was cutting down key boxes to prevent homeowners renting units to subletting guests.
The number of complaints about Gold Coast AirBnBs being used as party houses tripled from 2017 to 2018.
Last year, Airbnb claimed it pumped $53 million into the Gold Coast economy, earning each host an average of $6000 a year.
Responding to the Fairway Island decision, James Nickless, the president of the Strata Community Association Queensland which represents more than 1.2 million property owners, said "common sense had prevailed".
"A body corporate has been empowered to enact and enforce by-laws which are true to their community values," he said.
"This case not only stands out because of the outcome in favour of the body corporate, but also in part because of the Magistrate's consideration as to why parliament has given bodies corporate the power to make by-laws."
The body corporate chairman for Fairway Island declined to comment. Mr Redman and Mr Murray were unable to be contacted by the Bulletin.
Jason Carlson, a partner of Grace Lawyers and director of Strata Community Association (Queensland), said the decision was "a long time coming".
"It hadn't been done in Queensland before because it has always been the same lawyers and same adjudicators making the same decisions," he said. "We looked outside of Queensland legislation drafted in similar terms and how it had been dealt with in a higher court.
"Fairway Island is premium residential housing, predominantly occupied by owners and permanent rentals. Short-term letters are inconsistent with the tempo of the community.
"I think it (the decision) will change some of the perspectives in future decisions but I don't know it will overcome challenges under BCCMA.
"I believe this does show we need to change this fundamental approach to the legislation, to allow these communities to better identity what they stand for."
Derek Nolan, head of Airbnb public policy, said Airbnb is an "indispensable" part of the Gold Coast's tourism mix.
"Every extra visitor that stays in the Gold Coast because of Airbnb is one more person supporting jobs in local cafes, bars and shops," he said.
The company said it would support set state-wide rules for home sharing.