The number of properties offered on Airbnb could be slashed thanks to a NSW government proposal to impose stringent new fire safety rules on homes being let short-term. To bring their homes up to the required level, owners and lead tenants could face bills of thousands of dollars to fit integrated smoke alarms in bedrooms and corridors, as well as heat sensors in kitchens, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, emergency exit lights and evacuation maps.

The proposal to bring entire homes advertised on platforms like Airbnb and Stayz up to a standard closer to B&Bs, serviced apartments, boarding houses and hotels is in the discussion document put forward by NSW Planning. In November last year, Airbnb launched a massive campaign to try to defeat an earlier proposal – not as tough as this one – to improve fire safety.  “More than 300 Airbnb hosts sent identical letters to Department of Planning,” said planning lawyer and deputy chair of the apartment-owners peak body the Owners Corporation Network Jane Hearn.

“Among other things, the letters object to the previously proposed fire safety standards. “Because Airbnb has ‘deemed them safe’ they say they don’t want the ‘additional burden’ of installing interconnected smoke alarms and heat alarms. I really don’t get it; if you are in hospitality, why wouldn’t you want the best safety for your guests and for your own property? “At the recent code of conduct planning meetings when Airbnb was voicing opposition to occupancy limits, delegates were told by people in the hospitality industry that overcrowding and fire was a real issue.  One speaker’s own $3 million house had been burnt to the ground by visitors.”

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Sue Williams