Rose Wanchap, Byron Bay
In response to Tom Tabart’s recent letter to the Editor, Tom is a passionate and tireless supporter of our community and has been for a long time. However, I’m concerned that those who oppose or do not have the same opinion can be labelled ‘chronically ill-informed’.
According to the LEP, holiday letting in residential areas without approval has been illegal since its inception in 1988. This means throughout many terms council has not been able to come up with a solution and it still runs unabated despite the LEP.
It is obvious holiday letting in residential areas does not support a happy and healthy community which in my humble opinion is the goal of all law-makers, politicians included. While the issue of legality is being resolved, I have been considering a way of controlling at least the aspect of misbehaviour.
I am qualified and wel-informed on this subject and indeed far more so than many. My family has owned a management rights for the past 10 years in the centre of town, which has nothing to do with unmanaged holiday letting in residential areas.
I do not have a rent roll, neither holiday let nor permanent so have no pecuniary interests. I have also experienced the pain of living next door to holiday-makers of the worst kind: having the effect of turning mild-mannered Rose into a raging bull.
Only when you have experienced the pain year after year can you truly sympathise with others who find themselves in this situation. So I sincerely wish to bring positive change to this long-standing issue for the greater good of the community.
Having said that, I do understand that suitable and sustainable tourism is central to the welfare of our community, and that the industry in all its facets needs certainty to prosper.
Significant bonds do not need to be passed onto every guest, however, the risk of rogue guests needs to be taken from the community and placed back on to the owners/managing agents/tenants. An obvious mechanism to do this would be through a financially punitive arrangement.
My proposal to have managing agents take a substantial security deposit on these properties are being implemented in various ways all over the world.
I stayed for one night just recently in a cockroach-riddled motel in Sydney CBD. The hotel asked for a $250 security on my credit card before I could get the key. Being a single mature-aged business woman I was somewhat stunned, but this is now the reality.
In this era of social media, it is nothing short of ludicrous to hand over the keys to a home where there is no on-site manager or security guard without a substantial security deposit.
It’s just asking for trouble: a text or two later and that home is party central. There will be some establishment issues with such a scheme but not a great deal more than what is already in place when keys are handed over.
As is now the case, an agreement is signed and the credit card is swiped for the security deposit. I simply propose it be much higher than the amount proposed in the HLO code of conduct rules.
The point of difference is that there will be no added cost to either the agent or the owner. Even the clients will not be inconvenienced unless of course there is a complaint.
Then the agreement backed up by the credit card will come into action as a tool of the law to evict the perpetrators. There is already a reasonable commission charged by agents to administer the booking, which would cover any costs associated with it.
In fact, there could be a saving of staff hours by reduced numbers of trouble-makers. Insurance and fire and safety issues should be enforced by the letting agent to comply with tourist accommodation standards.
No new organisation would be required, just an agreement between all letting agents to apply the same conditions to letting homes that are in residential areas. The risk of bad behaviour then moves from the neighbours/community back to the owner/letting agent and tenant.
I do believe this is one of a few solutions to a complex problem that may actually discipline unruly behaviour. Imagine how quiet it would be in the house next door if the tenants or the owner were going to potentially lose a $4,000 or $5,000 bond.
Surely, it behoves us all to generate discussion and consider the prospect of a trial rather than knocking something just because it doesn’t fit into a previously conceived idea. Let’s be daring, let’s try something completely new. It might just work.