Christmas Safety

Tis the season to avoid online scammers

In a bid to avoid Christmas crowds, online shopping during the festive season is very appealing. And while the ease and

convenience of shopping from the comfort of home is a positive, it’s still important to be aware of simple security measures to ensure it’s not the season to be scammed.

During heavy shopping periods such as Christmas, the risk of online fraud and scams increases.

 

Heritage Bank has provided some simple tips to help you stay safe while shopping online during the Christmas period.

  • Protect your privacy – When you shop online, only include relevant information and check privacy policy and security of sites you visit.
  • Read all the fine print – This includes

refund and complaints handling policies. Are there any hidden costs you’ll be hit with at the check-out? There could be conversion costs (for international purchases) or hidden fees.

  • Don’t overshare on social media – Check your social media privacy settings. Do not post personal information that will put you at risk.
  • Reject Scam callers – Financial

institutions will never make unsolicited calls or emails asking for your personal banking details or card details, so always check with your provider.

  • Be alert to ‘romance scams’ – Over the Christmas and New Year period in

particular romance scams cause millions of dollars of loss to Australians.

  • Don’t send your bank or credit card

details via email to pay for purchases – Only pay via a secure web page that has a valid digital certificate. It should have a

padlock symbol and an address starting with https://

For more details about reporting and identifying scams and fraud, visit the SCAMWATCH and Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network websites.

House deposits – is Airbnb the answer? New company offering down payments with a catch

Down payment with a catch

It’s getting harder and harder for many to enter the housing market, but a new start-up in America is making it a little easier for those wanting to purchase a home…but it comes with a catch.

A 29-year-old entrepreneur from Seattle, Yifan Zhang has come up with a service, called Loftium, which fronts up the cash for a down payment on a home with a proviso they continuously list their extra bedroom on Airbnb for one to three years and share the income with the company.

Zhang told New York Times the concept came about when she and her husband

purchased a home in Seattle and looked into renting the spare bedroom to generate extra income. But when she learned the amount could cover her mortgage or sometimes more each month, she decided to start up Loftium.

The company provides prospective home-buyers in Seattle with up to $50,000 for a down payment as long as the extra bedroom is listed continuously on Airbnb for one to three years and the majority of income is shared with Loftium during this time.

The start-up determines the size of the down payment its willing to put up through an algorithm that predicts how much income a room can generate.

The company then collects around two-thirds of the income, leaving the home-owner to take home part of the profit as well.

And if the room doesn’t generate the expected income (provided it’s not directly the result of the homeowner through bad reviews/lack of availability etc), the homeowner is not out of pocket and there is no expectation to pay the money back.

The concept is fine if you are willing to open your home to travellers in order to get in the housing market.

While Loftium currently only operates in Seattle, the company has plans to branch out to more cities within a year and it’s only a matter of time before a similar operation starts up in Australia.

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.