Managing short-stay providers in your apartment block
The use of short-stay holiday letting and homestay services is now commonplace for tourists, but it can be a cause for concern for facility managers. ARIAN BAHRAMSARI looks at strategies for managing short-stay holiday letting in residential buildings.
The short-term rental accommodation concept, through companies such as Airbnb, has made its way into the facility management area recently, leaving building managers with a new challenge. Short-stay rental properties are expanding their share of residential apartment buildings every day. While it can be scary in some owners’ eyes, others may see short-term letting as an opportunity. In this article, I do not argue whether short-term rental apartments are lawful and acceptable in Australia, but rather elaborate on best practices to deal with short-term visitors to residential buildings.
When short-stays are welcome
Let us review short-stay accommodating buildings first. In some apartments, facility managers and residents’ committees have concluded that they have no issue with opening the building doors to host short-term rentals. This could present a challenge to the managers of these properties.
Building managers can be proactive and consider implementing procedures to ensure smooth management of their short-stay apartment building. They can encourage everyone in the building to be open and transparent when their apartment is being used for short-stay letting. It would be much easier to manage a building with a clear list of short-term properties compared to one in which tenants are hiding their purposes from building staff. Also, where the responsible person or business is specified, facility managers can easily contact them if needed. In addition, short-stay operators could be informed immediately if there is an emergency related to the building or their managed apartment.
Providing clear guidelines about what is requested from guests is the next suggestion. These guidelines should explain some critical points, such as:
- check-in and checkout requirements
- where to pick up and drop off keys
- how to access the car park, and
- who to contact in urgent situations; for example, if they lose their keys.
A high percentage of problems arising from short-stay accommodation stem from mismanagement and a lack of directive. Building managers have cited numerous cases where the have encountered situations where guests of Airbnb (or other short-term letting companies) have received no clear instructions prior to arrival. Guests have gone to the wrong apartment, parked in a wrong car park bay, didn’t know what to do with the key and have even asked managers for extra towels.
Clarifying the building manager’s role and the responsibilities of building management staff to residents and visitors is key to reducing confusion. Many short-term residents may not know that facility managers are responsible for common areas and for providing services to permanent residents in the building. This clarification can be as simple as placing a sign at the concierge desk or on the building manager’s office door, stating something in the vein of, ‘during your stay, concierge and building staff are not responsible for non-permanent residents. Please contact your host if required’.
Education and communication are vital to ensuring smooth short-stay transactions. Residents acting as short-stay operators should be aware of the building’s rules and guidelines. These can include:
- noise limitations
- maximum number of people allowed per facility or residence
- whether or not pets are permitted
- smoking laws
- flying limitations for drones, and
- the ultimate responsibility towards imparting owners’ corporation regulations to their guests.
If these rules are breached, the facility manager will request the owners’ corporation to send a breach notice to the owner of the lot directly.
Increasing security awareness in the building is also imperative. All short-letting rental owners need to know about any theft (including identity), security and access issues and any other potential associated risks with short-stay residents. They can be advised to stop or divert their mail while short-stay renters are using their property, or change locks once they’re using the apartment on a long-term basis again.
Short-stay operators could take advantage of technology to manage their Airbnb-listed apartment. For example, sending automated reminders and instructions before guests arrive or during their stay, and using sound control technology devices before excessive noise becomes a problem, can be beneficial.
There are some remote noise-monitoring technologies that can be advantageous in these types of properties, which do not record anything, but simply monitor the sound level. Once the noise has exceeded certain level, the operator will receive a text message notifying them of this. It should be noted that these types of technologies must be assessed for legal use within Australia.
Disinclination for short-stays
There are many buildings that prefer not to accommodate short-term residents in their facility. If they don’t wish to go the legal route, facility managers can orient their building towards more permanent residents by applying some simple strategies.
Equipping the building with a biometric access control system such as fingerprint access technology is highly recommended. Some of these technologies are quite flexible and can provide swipe access for permanent residents and ask for biometric access for others. In this case, building managers may choose which residents are required to access the building using biometric technology and who can enter with a swipe only.
Implementing compulsory induction for the use of amenities such as the gym, pool and spa is also advised. When compulsory induction is utilised, all users are required to register, attend the induction session and obtain the manager’s approval to access the facilities. Inductions can be conducted either online or in person and run regularly – once a month, for example. Certain areas of the facility may not be compatible with an induction process, such as a barbecue area, and in these instances FMs may decide to lock the unit. This then requires residents to visit the management office to pick up the key and sign the register log when they wish to use the appliance or area. By doing this, building managers will know who will be using the facility and can rest assured that users have been informed about the rules and safety.
Short-stay properties could be reported to their owners, the owners’ corporation, their real estate agents, taxation office, council or anyone else who is supposed to be aware of the business activity in that lot. In many cases, owners and property managers are not even aware that their apartment has been subleased to short-term renters.
The Australian Taxation Office also has a special interest in the income sources. The Council similarly requires notification if a residential apartment is being used as a commercial lot. By reporting short-stay visitors to the lot owners, agents or other parties, unwelcome and non-legitimate short-term visitors can be removed from the building. As an example, some owners lease their apartment to a long-term renter, and if they are notified that their property has been subleased to Airbnb, they may wish put a stop to it.
There are other strategies building managers can put in place to deter or minimise short-stay visitors’ disturbance to the building and its residents. These include:
- securing the mailbox area with a swipe access system
- limiting amenities’ access time on swipes, and
- limiting the number of issued access tokens for residents.
Airbnb and short-stay lettings are used all over the world and it’s an FM’s building owner and owners’ corporation that will determine the facility’s stance on short-stays. It is also worth mentioning that, in any scenario, facility managers are required to have the full support of their owner’s corporation and executive committee to handle short-stay related issues.
*There are several short-stay letting companies, but Airbnb has been referenced in this article, as it is one of the most popular for all short-stay users.
Bio: Arian Bahramsari is a facility manager at Facility Management Victoria Pty Ltd, based in Docklands, Melbourne
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