Airbnb – what are your rights?

Do you have rights to share your home?

Airbnb has become a central player in the sharing economy in the last decade. While its usage has presented opportunities to ease the financial burden of a mortgage, there are legal implications that hosts of strata-titled properties should be aware of.

In a recent case of Estens v Owners Corporation SP 11825 [2017] NSWCATCD 52, the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) found that strata by-laws which prohibited short term letting, like Airbnb, were invalid.

In this case, Ms Estens took the owner corporation of her apartment building to NCAT after it passed a by-law which prohibited short term letting as a result of a complaint by one of Ms Estens’ neighbours about the conduct of Ms Estens’ Airbnb guests.

Ms Estens argued that the by-law was invalid because it prohibited or restricted the dealing of a lot or transfer, lease, mortgage and infringed section 139(2) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (NSW) (SSMA).

NCAT concluded that an Airbnb letting constituted a tenancy or lease as it had specific commencement and end dates and gave the tenant exclusive use of the property. It found that the by-law prohibited or restricted the dealing of a lease and was therefore invalid by reason of section 139(2) of the SSMA.

This decision seems in conflict with that of the Western Australian Supreme Court in Byrne v The Owners of Ceresa River Apartments Strata Plan 55597 [2017] WASCA 104, which had considered the WA equivalent of section 139(2) yet upheld a by-law prohibiting short term letting. However, it is consistent with the decision of Owners Corporation PS 501391P v Balcombe [2016] VSC 384, in which the

Supreme Court of Victoria found that owner corporations did not have authority to ban short term letting.

In Queensland, strata property is governed by the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997. However, there have been no cases which deal directly with Airbnb and strata property.

What arises out of the above cases is that there is currently no uniform approach across the country as to whether owners of strata property can rent out their homes on Airbnb, if in contravention of a strata by-law.

It seems that the wording of the by-law might be important in deciding whether it infringes the equivalent section 139(2) provisions in the various state legislations that deal with strata property.

It is suggested that owners of strata property review their Body Corporate by-laws before renting out their homes on Airbnb to ensure that they comply with any legal obligations.

New ID Scanning Laws – what you need to know

The new ID scanning laws came into effect in Queensland from 1 July 2017. The purpose of these laws is to identify individuals who are the subject of banning orders to the various licenced pubs, nightclubs and bars around town.

In short, all licensed venues that ordinarily trade past midnight in the Safe Night Precincts, including the CBD and Fortitude Valley, are required to have approved ID scanners installed at each entry point to their venue. They are also required to scan the ID of all patrons entering their premises after 10pm, with some exceptions being hotel guests and people attending functions at the venue.

The scanners are linked to an approved ID scanning system which allows the cross-checking of an individual’s ID to any known bans held by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.

The concern for many people is the retention and use of their personal information obtained through these ID scanners. To address this issue, the scanning system will automatically delete the scanned information after 30 days and access to the scanned data is restricted, with the scanning system keeping a record of all those that log on to the system. Further, all licensed venues must still comply with their obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) in relation to the protection of personal information recorded by the scanners, which includes compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).

Venues may only use personal information for the primary purpose for which it is collected.

It may also use the information in other limited circumstances, such as direct marketing, but must make patrons aware of the intended use of the personal information, and give patrons the option of not receiving the direct marketing, at the time of collection.

If an individual suspects there has been a privacy breach of their personal information they can first lodge a complaint to the venue directly and thereafter a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner if they believe the venue has not appropriately dealt with the complaint within 30 days of receiving it. For more information visit the Queensland Government website

Travel Insurance Review

The Insurance market is reviewing cover in respect to mental illness. At the time of writing, some policies specifically exclude mental illness whilst others are reviewing their cover. Most travel policies do not automatically cover you for claims arising from, or exacerbated by, any existing medical condition unless you disclose that condition and the Insurer agrees to extend the policy to cover the existing condition.

Usually this is completion of a simple questionnaire to enable the insurer to assess the risk and advise you their decision. With an existing medical condition, it is important to identify a date of the first diagnosis. If you recently had a medical procedure e.g. knee replacement, even though you are happy about your current state of health, it is always best to declare the procedure to the insurer. It is better to declare now and be accepted by the insurer prior to commencement of the cover than have to sort a problem out at time of claim.

It is important that you check the policy you intend to purchase and understand the conditions of the policy. Many people make the mistake of not taking out the policy before making that first trip deposit. If you delay, it may reflect on what you can claim.

All Insurance policies require full disclosure of any matter that may influence the insurer. Corporate Travel Policies are much less restrictive than “standard” travel policies, in regard to pre-existing medical conditions, so talk to us about any concerns you have.

Social Media…grounds for termination?

The Fair Work Commission has increasingly been required to review issues raised by the use of social media in the workplace.

The proliferation of, and use of, social media sites, with nearly 70 per cent of Australians on Facebook and around 20 per cent on Instagram and Snapchat, has resulted in employees posting comments which often extend far wider that they had anticipated.

Businesses have begun to realise that social media can be used by their employees in inappropriate ways, which might damage their business.

It isn’t particularly surprising that a number of unfair dismissal claims have ended up before the Fair Work Commission, arising from posts on social media.


The following cases provide some useful tips:

  • An employee was sacked after posting that their night out was spoiled by someone having a heart attack.
  • An architect was dismissed for excessively using social media during working hours…allegedly more than 3,000 in a three-month period. It was found that the employee wasn’t given an opportunity to respond prior to the dismissal and was found to have been unfairly dismissed.
  • An employee posted a crude and threatening Facebook rant on his home computer outside of working hours and while he had blocked the fellow employee who was the subject of the rant, other employees read the post. It was found that the action of the employee amounted to serious misconduct and the dismissal stood. Although not naming the employer when posting comments about their boss, the dismissal was upheld on the basis that anyone who knew the employee would know that the comment related to their workplace.
  • Photos of employees planking in dangerous positions resulted in dismissal

The old saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, no longer applies and with virtually everyone with a mobile phone and people connected 24/7, nothing goes “unseen” and problems which previously would have been left at work when everyone goes home, now follow people home after work, which can lead to social media bullying and employees venting their frustration.

Nevertheless, employees have a right to free speech and privacy, so there must be a legitimate connection to the workplace and the conduct must damage the reputation of the business.

The Fair Work Commission has however, confirmed that a social media policy is a legitimate exercise of a business power to protect the security and reputation of their business…but it is vital that the business has a social media guideline in place, which is clearly communicated to all employees and obtains an acknowledgement that the employee has read and understood it.

Training is an important foundation to effectively enforce your social media policy. The policy should address bullying, cyber bullying and the use of social media… including what behaviour is appropriate and acceptable and what is not. It must also be clear that they will continue to apply, even outside working hours and also make it clear the consequences for failing to comply with it

Employment Contracts

An Employment Contract is an Agreement between an Employer and an Employee that sets out Terms and Conditions of Employment.

A Contract can be in writing or verbal. It’s certainly preferable to be “in writing” because should a dispute occur this will be the information that is relied upon to gain resolution between the “Parties”.

An Employment Contract cannot provide for less than the legal minimum set out in the National Employment Standards (NES). All employees are covered by the NES, regardless of whether they’ve signed a contract. A contract can’t make an employee worse off than their minimum legal entitlements. In some circumstances there are minimum awards, enterprise agreements or other registered agreements that may apply.

When setting out the Terms of Employment it’s prudent to include -:

  • Annual Base Salary
  • Superannuation
  • Minimum Hours of Work
  • Additional Benefits

As suggested above when providing a “Job Offer” benefits such as motor vehicles, mobile telephones, car parking, job sharing, working from home etc. should all be outlined together with maximum costings attached so there is a full understanding by all parties.

The more well-informed and equipped an employee is the more likely they are to perform their role better. It’s also prudent to sit down with future or new employees to discuss the Employment Contract and obtain

their feedback or questions so that there may then be no ambiguity going forward.

In the large majority of situations it’s best to consult a Lawyer who specialises in Contract Law so that the document then becomes Legally binding. Source(s) used: National Employment Stand-

Combustible Cladding

The Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017 has put building cladding under the spotlight with audits happening around Australia as a result.

Manufacturers offer two different versions of the cladding – one with a plastic core and one with a mineral core. The plastic filled version if ignited becomes a fuel for the fire, while the mineral core is considered less flammable.

Whilst investigators do not attribute the source of fires to the cladding, it certainly has attributed to the rapid spread of the fire. In the case of the Grenfell Tower fire which resulted in 79 people dead or missing, it took 15 minutes to engulf the complete 14 storey building.

The investigators believe a fridge freezer was the source. BBC reported that because of the rapid fire spreading on the outside of the building, the normal system of rescuing people and fighting from a lower storey did not work.

In August 2017 the Torch Building in Dubai caught fire for the second time (the first time was in 2015). Reports seem to suggest in both incidents, Combustible Cladding, whilst not the source, had a major effect on the spread and size of the fire.

In November 2014 in Melbourne, Australia, a small column of cladding on the Lacrosse building caught fire spreading quickly up the side of the building.

Reports indicated that a cigarette butt in a plastic container was the source of the fire
which spread up the 23 storey building in 11 minutes.

Luckily there was a limited amount of panels involved and internal sprinklers operated protecting occupants and reduced the spread of fire internally.

There were no casualties but 450 – 500 people were evacuated and had to find alternative accommodation. It was reported that the unit owners were instructed to rip off and replace the cladding at a personal cost estimated at $40 million.

Cladding is also used on many other buildings and authorities across the world are investigating. Following Grenfell, English authorities evacuated a further 650 apartments in other buildings fitted with the combustible cladding.

Looking at your building or if you are considering purchasing, how do you recognise the cladding? Reports seem to suggest that reviewing the building specification or looking at the cladding will not solve your question. It seems the only way to be sure is to have it tested.

The Australian newspaper reported that many buildings in Sydney could contain the cladding. And who is responsible and pay for repairs? Good Question.

Car thefts on the rise

If car owners think the improved security now fitted to most new vehicles has forced car thieves to move on to easier targets, think again! Empirical evidence suggest that they are now just targeting older model vehicles, but car thefts are not reducing.

According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, there was a 9 per cent national rise in car theft numbers last year. In 2016, there were 56,086 motor thefts – the highest level since 2012 and up from 51,525 in 2015.

In the worst-performing state, Victoria, motor thefts rose by 25 per cent, while Queensland was up 19 per cent and South Australia 10 per cent. All other states and territories recorded decreases.

Three-quarters of stolen vehicles were taken from outbuildings, such as garages and carports, or residential land, including driveways and streets.

Four of the top 10 hot spots in Australia were in Queensland, with Brisbane City, Gold Coast, Logan and Townsville named as Queensland’s danger zones.

It’s important to be vigilant and take preventive measures to reduce the chances of vehicle loss. This includes ensuring your vehicle is locked and parked in a safe area and making sure you have placed your keys in a safe place.

The car makes most susceptible for theft were the Nissan Pulsar 1995-2000 models (932 stolen in the year), Holden’s VE Commodore 2006-13 (860) and Toyota Hilux 2005-2011 (759).
Also remember, one way to avoid a dispute with the insurance company as to the value of a stolen vehicle is to look at insuring the vehicle for Agreed Value at the time the insurance is arranged. We can assist with answering any questions or queries you have regarding your car policy

Creepy crawly spider facts


  • You are rarely more than a few metres from a spider. And that one acre of ground is home to about a million spiders!
  • Around most homes you will find about 20-50 different species of spider. But in any bushland area, there is usually around 100-120 species!
  • There are around 10,000 different species of spiders in Australia, but only around 3,500 have names – but don’t be alarmed, most are too small to bite.
  • And it is the unexpected direction that spiders move in that generates the fear response in humans.
  • The majority of spiders will run away from wind/blowing.
  • If you have a 4WD watch out – spiders (as well as scorpions, cockroaches, lizards and snakes) are attracted to an idling 4WD diesel.
  • Speaking of cars…although huntsmen spiders have a weak venom, they are responsible for the most human deaths through car crashes (as they scramble across the windscreen).
  • Spider silk is easily dissolved with household bleach
  • Despite popular belief, daddy long legs spiders are harmless..
  • Male spiders look and behave like females until they are adult.
  • No Australian spider (including the white tail spider) has caused flesh-rotting.
  • An Australian jumping spider, Portia, has telephoto vision second only to the eagles.
  • Most spiders have eight eyes but are basically blind.
  • Spiders often consume their webs at nights end and then recycle the silk, through their gut, in about 20 minutes.
  • Most of the white on a spider is formed by the white guanine in the folds of the gut
  • Spider silk is highly elastic so when it reaches its most stretched point in the Spiderman movies, it should pull him straight back to base, not act like a rope.

Travel smart and travel safe

Passport – check. Clothes – check. Medications – check. Smartphone – check. You’ve got all of the above, but what about travel insurance?

Travelling overseas can be a fantastic adventure – but you shouldn’t do it without first having a travel insurance policy in place.

Not all travel policies are the same with many policy limitations that sometimes aren’t as obvious until it’s too late. It’s vitally important to ensure that you’re purchasing a policy that is adequate for where you are going together with coverage for activities that will be undertaken.

Many activities are not included in the “standard” policies for example heli-skiing or caving or certain underwater activities may be excluded or have policy

limitations imposed. Be careful to ensure that any activities you intend to undertake are covered prior to your departure.

Further, you should also make a point of looking up the Government’s smart traveller website to check the “safety status” of the country you intend visiting. This official site classifies countries according to travel safety and, of course, in many parts of the world this is volatile and subject to constant change.
The highest warning the Government issues is its “Do Not Travel”, which advises against travel to certain destinations. Some current “Do Not Travel” warnings include Syria,
Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen. Be aware that if you travel to countries against advice, your travel insurance will most likely be voided. A number of countries are on a “Reconsider your need to Travel” list. While your travel insurance will usually provide coverage in this case violence, political unrest and terrorist activities can escalate quickly, and may force the Australian Government to upgrade its warning to “Do not Travel”.

To ensure that you have the appropriate travel insurance its prudent to discuss your requirements with us, so we can tailor a policy accordingly and arrange well prior to your departure date.

Cyclone Debbie – the good and the bad

As the state continues to recover from ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie, the real cost of the cyclone quite possibly will never be known.

The cyclone, which crossed the coast on 28 March, 2017 as a category-four system and caused subsequent flooding in communities from the Whitsundays to New South Wales and then across to New Zealand. Over 72,000 Queenslanders requested assistance.

And while PERILS, the independent Zurich-based organisation providing industry-wide catastrophe insurance data disclosed its initial property market loss estimate for Debbie at $1.116 million, there are other losses that are just not counted.

Cyclone Debbie caused the closure of many schoools in Queensland for two days and many businesses also closed in the lead up. Once the Cyclone past, many of the affected areas had further closures as a result of public utilities.

Business owners wore the cost of the closures with these figures unlikely to be ever known.

While many analysts expected the cyclone to have minimal impact on broader economic growth, there was severe damage to sugar and fruit and vegetable crops causing shortages in supply.

A quarter of all sugar produced in Australia comes from the Mackay-Proserpine region, with the Bowen region also a key producer of fruits and vegetables including mangoes, tomatoes and capsicum.

But there are some postivies that have come from Debbie including the fact that emergency services including the SES and volunteers who did a marvellous job during the disaster.

More coverage

In comparison to Cyclone Yasi in 2011, Queenslanders now have wider insurance coverage options available.
It is important to have a broker assist and talk to you in handling the claims process.

With reports of policy holders being scammed by people, doorknocking at homes, claiming to be representing Insurers and demanding cash payments to clean up, inspections and repairs. No Insurer’s representative would ever demand cash for such work.

These scams highlight the importance of having a broker who can assist with the claim process in what is a stressful situation.