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Monday Oct 02, 2017

'Report Airbnb apartments without consent' - Cape Town

More and more people are letting flats in apartment buildings for short- term holiday use, especially on Cape Town's Atlantic seaboard, but Brett Herron, mayco member for transport and urban development, says this is not permitted without city consent.

He encouraged people who knew of contraventions to the municipal planning by-laws to provide details to the city's law enforcement staff "who will proceed with legal action if needed/warranted".

The by-laws do not affect BnBs and guesthouses because the accommodation is provided in a house or second house on a property, but holiday lets cannot be provided from blocks of flats.

Herron said: "In terms of municipal planning by-laws, a block of flats cannot be used for holiday accommodation or hotel purposes. Any owner wishing to do short-term holiday letting from a block of flats, irrespective of the platform facilitating such letting - such as Airbnb or otherwise - must ensure the property is appropriately zoned, and must apply for consent from the city's development management department."

Because Airbnb and transient accommodation is a "complicated matter", Herron advises potential applicants to request pre-application consultation sessions with land use planners.

The situation is different for owners of units in sectional title developments and complexes.

Marina Constas, specialist sectional title attorney, says holiday letting in line with Airbnb and short-term holiday rental trends is "bad news" for unit owners.

She says investors who buy properties in residential blocks and rent these out on a shortterm basis are jeopardising the reputations, property values and security of sectional title developments. This includes premier residential complexes in coastal towns and cities, where there is a "burgeoning demand for secure, affordable, self-catering holiday accommodation".

"This is becoming a growing problem in Cape Town, particularly on the Atlantic seaboard.

"While holidaymakers may be delighted to rent for a week in quiet, sea-facing complexes, the unfortunate permanent residents are faced with unknown people coming and going, and the associated problems and risks."

However, Constas, a director of BBM Attorneys and author of Demystifying Sectional Title, says there are solutions. To protect the complex's reputation, maintain security and preserve property values, sectional title trustees must ensure the development's conduct rules prohibit short-term letting.

"Where conduct rules need to be amended to put in a clause prohibiting letting for less than six months, this can be done by way of a special resolution.

Constas says short-term rentals are "not in the spirit of the Sectional Titles Act".

"Trustees have a fiduciary duty, and they can take control to meet this duty and protect their building."

Cape Town appears to be the only major city to have by-laws covering holiday letting. Durban did not respond to inquiries. A spokesman for Joburg's department of land use management said they were "not aware of the extent of the problem".

  • Airbnb legislation internationally

    In December, Airbnb's legal battle against city lawmakers across the world collapsed with the company introducing a "One Host, One Home" feature in New York and San Francisco.

    That feature prevents hosts from listing more than one entire home, reversing a long-held stance that self-policing would be cumbersome and logistically unrealistic.

    The company agreed in a deal with London and Amsterdam to ensure hosts met local licensing requirements and to enforce caps on the number of days an entire apartment could be rented out each year.

    In October last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill to make it illegal to advertise on Airbnb entire unoccupied apartments for less than 30 days. In February, the city began fining people who ignored the ban.

    In Berlin, it became illegal last year for owners to rent out entire apartments to tourists without a permit from the city. Heavy fines are being imposed.

    Bonny Fourie
    Property
    Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

    Independent Property appears every Saturday in the Weekend Argus

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