'More people invite total strangers from Tinder or Grindr': Spencer's Airbnb quandary

Strata fees could fall in buildings that allow owners to list their properties on Airbnb, under a building program launched by the home sharing platform this week.

The Friendly Buildings Program, which has been piloted in the US, will redirect a recommended 5 to 15 per cent of an Airbnb booking fee back to the strata body, giving it a cut of the lucrative home sharing market.

The program required Airbnb hosts and their owners corporation to sign an agreement, that includes a "rule book" for home sharing in the building, as well as insurance of $1 million for every booking.

It will also make way for a "multi-stack" arrangement, whereby tenants in a rental property can rent out a room or home on Airbnb, while ensuring a profit share for both the landlord and the owner's corporation.

At the two-bedroom apartment he owns in Redfern, Spencer Kirk has hosted nearly 300 guests in the past five years, renting out his second bedroom.

"The one thing you have to do is keep everyone in the loop," Mr Kirk, 42, said.

"I don't tell the owner's corporation about every guest...though I would have no issue whatsoever if they asked me to do it all the time.

"In this building there are more people in apartments inviting total strangers in from Tinder or Grindr."

It may not be a requirement right now, but Mr Kirk could soon find himself opening his booking calendar to the owner's corporation, if his building joins the new program.

"[The program] will provide transparency so that strata can understand what type of home sharing is taking place, when and by whom." said Jaja Jackson, Airbnb's global director of multifamily housing partnerships.

"The profit share component also has the potential to reduce strata fees for apartment owners, depending on how strata bodies wish to allocate the additional income."

Current strata laws in Sydney give an owners corporation the right to ban short-stay lets if their building is zoned residential only, however zoning changes are currently being considered by the NSW government that would make holiday lets exempt.

An 18-month long parliamentary inquiry last year determined that home owners should be given the green light to let out spare rooms without risking fines.

The inquiry's recommendations received a mixed reception from critics who have long called for powers to allow owners corporations to ban hosts from strata buildings.

The government is due to respond by April.

However Airbnb argues the new building program eliminates the common concerns voiced by opponents to the platform.

"The executive committee will establish a set of rules...including things like caps [on the number of guests] or blockout dates," Mr Jackson said.

"If there is a disagreement, the purpose of the partnership is for us to provide support to strata...and it is entirely free."

If an apartment owner is found to be violating the rules, the owner's corporation is required to notify Airbnb. If mediation is unsuccessful, Airbnb can shut down the account.

During a visit to Sydney this week Mr Jackson is meeting with strata groups to discuss the program.

Chris Duggan, president of strata sector peak body Strata Community Australia (NSW), said short-term booking platforms required "a solution...that is sympathetic to the issues that can arise with inappropriate use."

"[Our] position continues to be that the matter should be one for both local and state government authorities concerning approved uses....and we call on the major online platforms to work with lot owners, strata managers and government," he said.

Mr Duggan said he could not comment on whether the program would reduce strata fees until more details were revealed.

Spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network Stephen Goddard said buildings should be able to have a say on whether Airbnb is allowed or not, an issue the program failed to address.

"Call me cynical, but the timing of this plan...does not seem like a co-incidence...We welcome Airbnb's new position that there needs to be regulation, rules and compensation, but they also need to add 'building permission' to that list."

This story 'More people invite total strangers from Tinder or Grindr': Spencer's Airbnb quandary first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.