Signage outside holiday let premises, the introduction of development consent and higher rate charges are just some of the measures Byron Shire Council has put forward as part of its strategy to manage the industry.
The adoption of the Byron Shire Short Term Holiday Accommodation Action Plan at last Thursday’s meeting aims to address the community’s demand for peaceful amenity and the assumed rights of property owners to profit from holiday letting.
Both industry representatives and affected residents addressed Council during public access to voice their concerns and neither was happy with council’s compromise solution.
John Gudgeon, representing the Holiday Letting Organisation (HLO), told the chamber on Thursday that while it was encouraging to see the issue moving towards a ‘real and practical’ arrangement, ‘it’s unfortunately fundamentally flawed.’
He said his group’s submission to the plans flagged that development consent planning methods were not going to be legally binding. ‘Subsequent advice has reinforced that position. So while we support the concept of limiting size, as far as management and behavioural management is concerned, we are really concerned that Council is pursuing this and question whether it will be sustainable in the future.
‘I have contacted the general manager with this advice and asked to discuss this with staff but didn’t get a reply.’
Regarding forcing holiday let property owners to apply for development consent, Mr Gudgeon said it is not substantively changing the use of the dwelling.
‘Council just hasn’t the power or right to do that. The use is still residential which has been reinforced by courts right throughout Australia.’
He brought up the landmark Terrigal holiday let decision [see below]. ‘Council misunderstood the effects of that decision, and it shouldn’t be used as a precedent for what happens in other places.’
And as for reclassifying rates from residential to businesses, he said, ‘That is simply not permissible, and there’s plenty of evidence for that. This cannot be legally enforced. It makes no sense to proceed unless the strategy can be effective and sustained. We want council to go back to the table.’
Robert Rosen, representing holiday letting operators in Brunswick Heads and the town’s chamber of commerce, told the chamber it had ‘positive elements’, it needs to be simpler, and there were ‘poorly defined regulatory requirements’.
‘For example: complaints. [It is suggested to be] 24 hours with 30-minute notice. Surely security services could be included in that as well. Fire requirements are more stringent than for a normal house. There’s no empirical evidence that there is a higher fire risk from short-term accommodation.’
Mr Rosen also made the bold claim that holidaymakers had a lower impact on council resources than residents.
Favours holiday owners: VOHL
Meanwhile, Victims Of Holiday Letting’s (VOHL) Doug Luke told councillors that the policy ‘favours holiday owners over the rights of residents and their peaceful enjoyment of their homes.’
‘This is a huge diversion from affordable residential rentals. In my 18 years here I’ve seen holiday letting increase fivefold and have seen people forced out of town and seen share housing with four or five or more occupants. ABC Radio just reported that Byron Bay comes out as the least affordable housing in NSW.’
Regarding applying business rates, he said, ‘Surely if you are running a business then you pay business rates. Please don’t burden ratepayers with holiday letting. If neighbours are disturbed they have a right to complain… there is still intimidation.’
He suggested the owner/ manager must attend in person to accurately assess the complaint.
‘There will be three and half years before this plan can have any faults rectified. One year for gazettal, one year moratorium and up to 18 months for review. In the meantime, for the sake of residents, please authorise compliance officers to take legal action against disruptive holiday let properties. Otherwise it’s business as usual.’ The plans are expected to go on public exhibition shortly.
The Terrigal decision
Holiday letting has been a contentious issue for many years; the state government has provided little to no guidance to councils, who have been left to manage it by themselves in conjunction with holiday letters.
While Byron Bay has been a particular focal point owing to the large number of holiday let homes, a landmark court case in May 2013 found that short-term holiday letting at a house in Terrigal in NSW was illegal.
Newscorp reported at the time that the judge ‘found the fault was not entirely [the defendant] Ms Bennic, as she had never been told by Gosford Council that it was illegal to rent out her property.’
It is interesting to note that to develop a legitimate holiday letting establishment the regulations are strict re fire & safety, costs to community infrastructure and traffic burdens, yet to let out a domestic house for short term is deemed absolutely fine to add extra 6 cars in the street, extra garbage, extra noise, extra shits…….till it burns down and kills people or they drown in the pool or whatever ie Childers Backpackers and the fact that many can profit from a lack of duty of care is truly strange.
With a lack of policy that allows anyone to let anything adlib with no associated costs and then cost penalise those who wish to provide safe insurable premises, there appears little incentive for one to follow the rules. Air BNB has now denied communities of much needed funds to service their towns.
Why develop anything at all?
Lets just let it all hang out then hey?…let them all party hard in the streets, the parks, the road verges…the backyards late at night of your domestic neighbourhood, so that those who wish to avoid responsibilities can continue to do so at the cost of many.
John Gudgeon needs to read the Terrigal case again. The landmark decision in the Land and Environment Court clearly showed that holiday letting in R2 Residential zones is an illegal activity. The decision was not appealed so stands. This is why the State Government has told councils to develop their own policies which suit their particular conditions. I have read some of the legal opinion from his Sydney legal advisers which a capable lawyer would find many faults with in a court of law.
John Gudgeon is still saying that his voluntary Holiday Rental Code of Conduct is the way to go. Unfortunately it is voluntary and does not give enough protection to residential amenity.
John Gudgeon gives the appearance of not being really concerned about protection of residents from the problem holiday lets. The only concern is maximising profits and minimising accountability.
Property owners who own more than one property in each township or locality and is holiday letting most or all of them, should be deemed to be running a business.
‘Renting’ a property/dwelling for long term is acceptable as this is providing accomodation for people who live/work or volunteer in these town or districts.
‘Holiday Lets’ on the other hand, only provide accomodation at certain times of the year and lay vacant at other times.
We need more ‘investment’ property owners to release their dwellings for year round rentals to people who wish to work and live here and to be a part of the communities.
Obviously we need to accomodate our visitors and tourists so revisiting the idea of having holiday lets only within the commercial precincts of towns of villages is an obvious compromise.
People who profit (including) agents, should be paying a levy or tax to the communities via the local council. The provision of much-needed accomodations should be of primary concern to council. Homelessness or overcrowding in existing rentals is getting worse and we need to finally address these and other issues.
What a joke! “tackling holiday lets” with a big sign out front! And at the same time making your own property unattractive to buyers! Whose great idea was this??