“Makeshift” hotel operations are taking hold of Melbourne’s residential towers, which are increasingly swamped with cleaners and tourists.
In one case, a reception desk was installed in a CBD building to manage the continual stream of holidaymakers checking in and out of short-stay apartments.
Permanent residents say it is like living in a “shoddy” hotel. They report being racially abused or sexually harassed by revolving groups of visitors, who often use the apartments as a “party pad”.
It is estimated there are 3315 rooms in Melbourne being hired out in buildings not necessarily designed to be hotels.
An independent state government panel recently found some short-stay occupants in the CBD were responsible for dropping items off balconies and urinating, vomiting and being naked in common areas.
It also reported that the use of apartments for short stays could be causing buildings to be occupied by more people than they were designed for.
President of the Owners Corporation Network Victoria, Roger Gardner, said it only took a relatively small number of short-stay apartments to make a residential building feel like a hotel.
“From the perspective of permanent residents it’s a disaster and it’s getting worse,” he said.
But owners’ corporations have no powers to ban short stays, according to a ruling last month by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
At the Aura on Flinders building, there are more than 90 short-stay apartments. This year the serviced apartment provider installed a reception desk in the lobby area of the residential tower near the Melbourne Aquarium.
Sam Wilde has been living with her partner at Aura on Flinders for 18 months. She said she discovered dried vomit “and other indiscernible fluids” sprayed on the elevator floors and walls on more than one occasion.
Ms Wilde said the lifts were often congested, due to travellers and cleaners ferrying their trolleys from floor to floor. “On one particularly memorable occasion it took me nearly 20 minutes to travel from the lobby to my 20th-floor apartment,” she said.
Another night Ms Wilde said three men “all over six foot” had followed her to her apartment door, asking her “sexually-related questions”.
Other residents who spoke to The Saturday Age said permanent tenants had moved out because they disliked living alongside dozens of serviced apartments, only to have the newly-vacated apartments turned into more short stays.
“It’s like a cancer in the building,” said one tenant, who did not want to be identified.
It is understood the 90-plus serviced apartments are managed by the same company, Aura on Flinders, which is linked to Acacia Global Trading. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
Rooms were available at the building this weekend from as little as $129 a night, through popular booking companies including Wotif, Booking苏州美甲美睫培训学校 and Expedia.
Residents complained that the cheaper prices sometimes attracted large groups of teenagers throwing parties.
Before being elected last year, the Victorian Labor government pledged to improve the regulation of CBD residential buildings “so property is protected from unruly ‘short-stay’ parties”.
However, the independent panel established by the government rejected most solutions it discussed, including banning short-stay units in residential buildings.
The government is considering the panel’s recommendation to make short-stay accommodation providers responsible “to a limited extent” for parties in the apartments they let.
Minister for Consumer Affairs Jane Garrett said the government was “working to introduce a commonsense, long-term solution to this problem that fosters tourism but also protects neighbouring residents.”
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