There were two in the bed…

GILLIAN NICHOLAS established Westerley Accommodation in 1997. Starting with a humble bed and breakfast she steadily grew the business and now manages more than 20 short-stay properties across Fremantle. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED she discusses the evolution of the short-stay rental sector, and describes the levy introduced by Fremantle council for short stay accommodation providers in residential areas as “sensible” and not “exorbitant”.

IN 2009 when Fremantle introduced the short-stay accommodation regulations, we were very happy to comply.

These regulations required the following:

• All bookings to be for a minimum of two nights;

• A car parking space for a property with more than four people;

• Fremantle council to be able to contact the managers at any time if an issue arose;

• Property plans to be submitted to Fremantle planning department; and,

• If strata regulations specifically disallow short-stay then owners in that complex must not be part of this industry.

The one-off cost was less than $200, and even before these regulations came in one of our staff was on call 24/7, although sleeping next to the work mobile has its problem.

Since the arrival of the disruptive technologies associated with the Internet, we have seen, particularly with AirBnB, an explosion of accommodation options and properties.

These are self-contained houses, units and room letting. This has led to a plunge in costs to visitors and therefore in returns for managers of similar businesses.

However, it has made visiting Fremantle more affordable for international and younger visitors.

This explosion has led to considerable unease with neighbours who feel they do not know “what is going on next door”.

There have been issues like residents in apartment complexes having their amenity damaged by rowdy guests, damage to carpets and lifts etc by luggage being continually dragged through.

We understand that a hotel offers more services than most hosts can, that hotels have more facilities for multiple colleagues and that their set-up costs and running costs are high.

Therefore, we are comfortable working with the hotels rather than against them. We are all in the same business – servicing a demand in the fantastic tourist and business hub that is Fremantle.

We also must be careful of the amenity of our neighbours and people who live in Fremantle.

It is vital that we retain support from them and that our guests enliven the lifestyle and Fremantle stays a splendid city in which to live.

A rate increase, as recently passed by Fremantle council, is sensible as these properties are used for commercial reasons. The increase is not, in our view, exorbitant and should be affordable.

The use of this money for destination marketing is an excellent idea. Since Perth has had so much money poured into its tourist facilities, Fremantle has suffered hugely.

Although we advertise Fremantle as much as we can, unless potential guests look for Fremantle over another destination on a booking site we will not get a look-in.

The council need to actively chase those property managers/owners who do not fulfil the current regulations.

We suggest that an approval process, like the one used for Bed and Breakfast accommodation, be implemented for all rooms let short stay in private houses, and a person needs to be held responsible 24/7. The fee should also be applied to these businesses.

Our type of short-stay tourist sector offers a valuable service for lower price room accommodation, as well as excellent options for families or for slightly-longer stay guests. For instance, people relocating for work or for home repairs where hotel stay is not suitable.

Short-stay insurance. This is an area that hosts need to address. Many insurers will not cover short-stay businesses and the council could perhaps be helpful in approaching insurance companies to take an interest in this area.

It would be very unfortunate if there was to be any litigation over an accident that occurred in an uninsured property.

It would be a great pity if Fremantle were to lose the short-stay sector as it is a great place for families.

We hope that with the finalisation of Kings Square, the economy will become more vibrant and offer local and overseas visitors a fantastic stay; both in hotels and local homes.

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