Drug use, prostitutes and late-night partying are among complaints from residents living next door to Airbnb houses as Newcastle City Council seeks to curb short-term letting in the city.
The council says it will seek to limit short-term rentals where the host is not present to 180 days a year under planning rules being introduced by the NSW government.
The new regulations, which are on public exhibition, include a 180-day annual limit on Sydney rentals where the host is not present.
The code allows councils outside Sydney to apply for a reduction in the threshold from 365 days to no lower than 180.
It also allows owners’ corporations to prevent short-term letting in their unit block if the hosts do not live in the unit they are letting out and includes a code of conduct tying online platforms, letting agents, hosts and guests to a two-strikes-and-you’re out rule on noise and other disruptive behaviour.
The council said on Thursday that it planned to write to the Department of Planning and Environment seeking a 180-day limit.
Independent councillor Kath Elliott, who raised the issue at a council meeting two weeks ago, said she had received complaints from residents “suffering tremendously from people who were having parties in properties all day and all night and all year round”.
The Australian Urban Housing and Research Institute issued a study on Thursday which concluded that Airbnb rentals were affecting the property market in Sydney and Melbourne.
STRAs, as they are known, accounted for between 8.6 and 15.6 per cent of rental stock in sought-after suburbs and were pushing up rents, the researchers found.
They also said NSW and Victorian rules governing STRAs were “permissive” by international standards.
Whether STRAs have affected the Newcastle housing market is unclear, but Cr Elliott said their existence was being felt by residents.
“I’ve had a number of people in ward two who have to move out of their homes at certain times for their children to be able to sleep and be able to function and do their exams and study.”
The council sought a 90-day limit, roughly equating to the number of school holidays, on STRAs with no host present when the government called for a first round of feedback last year, but that option is not available under the latest iteration of the proposed code.
“I think 180 days is too many,” Cr Elliott said. “If you’re renting your house out for short-term accommodation for 180 days, half of the year, you’re engaged in a business activity, which is fine, but you just have to go through the normal process of submitting a DA.”
Airbnb has at least 300 listings across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie and hundreds more in Port Stephens.
One Merewether resident told the Herald that he and his wife, who have four children, were not against Airbnbs and had used them on overseas holidays in the past.
“We support the sharing economy, but that’s not what’s happening in reality,” he said. “These are businesses being run in suburbs among families trying to go about their daily lives.”
He said his family were perpetually living next door to people who were letting their hair down while on holiday.
“We don’t think people who use these Airbnbs are bad people, but when we go on holidays we like to eat and drink and stay up late.
“I think that’s quite normal, but when it’s happening underneath my daughters’ bedrooms on a Tuesday night in a fairly consistent way, then it becomes an issue. Every tenancy is an event.
“Last Wednesday night I got to sit in my daughter’s bedroom with the window open – thankfully she was asleep – and listen to a guy on the back deck in the spa negotiate out his financial arrangements with the hooker that had just arrived.
“I’m not a prude, but just not underneath my daughter’s window.
“Or the buck’s party that’s messed and coked up until three in the morning, and then get up and have another couple of lines for breakfast and punch it all off again at 6.30 after three hours’ sleep.”
He said, under current rules, guests and absent hosts were not accountable to neighbours.