Business licensing in Sydney
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your trips or experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your experience, we encourage you to check with your city or an attorney.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the law has not changed recently.*
How do I know if I'm running a business?
You are in business if your activity, as a whole, is commercial with an aim to make a profit. If you are undertaking the activity for commercial reasons, with the main intention or purpose to make a profit, and if you undertake the activity regularly and repeatedly, you are likely to be running a business. This is different from a hobby which you do not participate in with the main intention or purpose to make a profit. The Australian Government has online resources to help you identify whether your activity is likely to be considered a business.
Examples of where a person would be seen to be running a business:
- I am a professional surf instructor and I want to occasionally provide experiences which involve me providing private surf lessons and introducing guests to my local beach.
- I am a non-professional photographer. I provide experiences or trips involving photography lessons and guided visits of my area. I do this on a regular basis and this is how I make my living.
Examples of where a person may not be seen to be running a business:
- I am a keen cyclist who is active in the Sydney cycling community. I want to provide an experience or a trip as a one-off thing, or a few times a year, where I offer guests the opportunity to join our cycling community during their stay.
- I am a professional chef who loves to find fresh and organic produce at local farmers' markets. I want to provide experiences on an ad-hoc basis. These experiences will centre around visiting organic food markets, but this is not something I rely on to make my living.
The Australian Government has developed a business checklist to help guide people through the various stages of starting and running a business. We encourage you to review this checklist for guidance on starting and running a business.
What legal structure could I choose to use?
There are a number of legal structures you can choose from when starting your business. The four main structures commonly used by small businesses in Australia are sole trader, company, partnership, and trust.
The Australian Government has a useful guide on the different structures you can choose.
Do any business registration or licensing obligations apply?
When starting a business, you will need to register (a) your business name (if you choose to operate as a sole trader, partnership or trust); or (b) your company (if you choose to operate as a company).
Registering a business name:
- You can register a business name through the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) website.
- If your business name is your or your partner's first name and surname, then you do not need to register a business name.
- To register a business name, you will need to have an Australian Business Number (ABN). An ABN is a unique 11-digit number that identifies your business to the government and community. You may apply for an ABN through the Australian Business Register website free of charge.
Registering a company:
- You can register a company either through a private service provider that has direct access to ASIC's systems, or by lodging a paper form directly with ASIC.
- Once ASIC has processed your application, ASIC will register the company and give your company an Australian Company Number (ACN), which you can use to apply for an ABN.
Complying with local council regulations:
- If you run a business from your home, you will need to ensure you comply with any local council requirements. This may include notifying your local council or obtaining a permit or licence to carry on your business in a residential area. For example, the City of Sydney Council requires the operator of a food business to obtain approval from the Council by submitting a registration form. Further information about the requirements for food businesses is available on our information page on experiences involving food.
- Generally, a home-based business will not require specific registration with the local council where it is also your place of residence. However, regulations differ between each local council and other requirements may apply, for example, where you employ staff as part of your business.
- You should contact your local council to confirm you are able to conduct your type of business under the local council regulations.
Other registration requirements:
As well as registering a business name, there are a variety of taxes that you may be required to register for. These may include:
- Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- Tax File Number (TFN)
- Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding
The Australian Government has established a free online service called the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS). We encourage you to use ABLIS to determine whether your experience would require any licences or approvals.
Is there anything I need to be aware of when dealing with consumers?
If you are providing any kind of commercial services to consumers, then the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) will apply to your provision of those services. Some of the key ways in which the ACL imposes obligations on you under NSW law include:
- Anti-competitive behaviour: Certain business practices that limit or prevent competition are against the law.
- Unfair contract terms: It is important that you are aware of your rights and obligations in relation to "unfair" terms in standard form contracts
- Treating consumers fairly: Businesses have obligations under the law to treat their customers and consumers fairly. It is important that you understand your customers' rights. For example, as consumers, your guests will have certain rights in relation to the services you provide, and your guests cannot waive these rights. These are generally referred to as "consumer guarantees", and they set a standard for providing goods and services to consumers.
- Misleading or deceptive conduct: You must not do or say anything in providing or promoting your services that is likely to be misleading or deceptive.
- Product safety: As a business you must make sure that all consumer products and services you supply are safe and meet consumer guarantees under the ACL.
Is there anything I should be thinking about if I am offering an experience in my home?
Yes. You should consider whether you may need development consent for your activity. Development consent is not usually required for a “home occupation”, which is an occupation that is carried on in a dwelling by the permanent residents of the dwelling. However, if you intend to employ any other person or if your activity would interfere with the amenity of your neighbourhood (e.g. if it is noisy, generates traffic or involves exhibiting any signage other than a business identification sign), you may be considered to be providing “tourist and visitor accommodation” for which development consent may be required. Please contact your local council to check what requirements are applicable to you.
Is there anything else I should be thinking about?
Yes. Depending on the activity you will be providing or organising, you may need to register, obtain licences, or follow specific rules that apply to that activity. Our section on activity specific licensing requirements and rules covers some of the typical activities, but is not intended to be comprehensive. The Australian Business Licence and Information Service can help you find out if you need a specific licence to carry out a specific service or activity you want to provide. You should always check the position with your local council or seek advice from a legal professional.
You should also check what tax and accounting rules apply to you, and make sure you have the right insurance cover in place to cover all the activities you will be providing.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).