Could short-term rentals be subject to public liability cases amid COVID-19 pandemic?

Date: May 01, 2020

COVID-19 has affected many aspects of the Australian economy and the daily lives of residents, but it's also had an interesting impact on the rental market. ABC News reported that the number of rental listings is 10% higher across the country compared to a year ago.

Much of this is attributed to residents moving in response to losing their jobs or downsizing to save money during these uncertain times. Even though supply is high and demand is low, short-term rentals are still important to keep available during the pandemic. In connection to this, the legality of short-term rentals offered by companies like Airbnb has come under scrutiny from local governments.

What about stay-at-home orders?

Domain reported on the conundrum many states are having with allowing short-term rentals to be available while stay-at-home orders are in place. They explained that in NSW, for example, it is illegal for residents to stay in a short-term rental from Airbnb or a similar agency without a lawful reason.

While this initially sounded like a wide-sweeping rule, there are a number of notable exceptions in which short-term rentals have a very important role to play during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontline health care workers may need temporary accommodation closer to their workplace or simply away from their family – especially if they live with someone at high risk of contracting the virus and experiencing serious health complications. Additionally, if someone needs a place to stay while caring for a loved one, a short-term accommodation is usually their best option.

Short-term rentals and public liability

A major part of the debate surrounding short-term accommodations during the COVID-19 outbreak is public liability. Domain reported that the NSW government recently shelved a Code of Conduct for the short-term accommodation industry, much to the dismay of apartment lobby groups.

Along with other mandates, the code would have made it obligatory for short-term landlords to take out liability insurance for their guests. Now that this code has been shelved, guests in these rentals are vulnerable if anything goes wrong – and many respondents believe the government is more concerned with protecting listings than public safety.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future and if any other states will take actions to protect the public renting short-term housing during the pandemic.

The legal experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners can help you understand your rights to filing a public liability claim, contact us today.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.