State govt knocks out ‘key provision’ of Byron holiday-let plan

Hans Lovejoy & Chris Dobney

A policy to regulate short-term rental accommodation, or holiday letting, will be before councillors tomorrow (Thursday, October 28).

The short-term rental accommodation (STRA) policy was sent to the state government by the previous council, and with advice from the state government now received, it’s back before the new council to consider and vote upon.

But one of the key provisions of the plan is not supported by the state government.

The size of Byron’s problem

The move comes amid revelations from a new website, Inside Airbnb, which shows Byron shire has almost six times more properties listed on the holiday rentals website than any other northern rivers council.

In total 1,483 properties are listed in the shire, with the majority clustered around Byron Bay and Bangalow.

In what could prove a useful tool for council compliance officers, the website estimates the average income per month for each property and its average occupancy rate.

It also distinguishes between whole-house rentals, which would be covered by the new rules, and individual rooms, which would not. A significant majority of Byron shirei rentals offered on the site (62.4 per cent) are for whole homes.

And it estimates those properties that are full-time holiday lets. In Byron’s case the figure sits at an astonishingly high 1,200, or 81 per cent.

By comparison, Tweed has 259 listings, although a slightly higher proportion (70.5 per cent) are whole house rentals.

Ballina has 252 listings, with 69.4 per cent being whole homes. Lismore, despite being a much larger area, has just 92 listings with 68.5 per cent whole-house rentals.

Exempt provisions

The Parliamentary Counsel’s Office (PCO) have recommended Byron’s holiday-let plan be approved but with some changes to the exempt provisions.

Under the strategy, homes that are up to three bedrooms that are let for under 90 days won’t require a DA, but will be required to register.

Cr Paul Spooner (Country Labor) told The Echo, ‘The state government is not happy with the provision where if more than two verified complaints were received on a property, then it gets taken off the register.

‘Without this, it provides no certainty and the issues we have been confronted with will continue.

‘I’ll be putting a motion forward that will accept some of the things the state are requesting and then negotiate for that provision to remain.’

The staff report notes that the exempt clause greatly expands on what is required in the Gosford and Wyong LEP’s for the same types of activities, which permits holiday letting in four bedroom dwellings throughout the year.

Staff recommend a 12 month moratorium on compliance and also flag that more resources would be required to manage the policy.

15 responses to “State govt knocks out ‘key provision’ of Byron holiday-let plan”

  1. Harry says:

    OMG. The number of Airbnb in Byron Shire is enormous. All areas where residents are concentrated have a huge number of these short term rentals. No wonder the shire has an affordable housing problem. This monster has got to be controlled.

    New York has recently passed a law banning Airbnb with huge fines for the owners.

  2. mark Owen-Greene says:

    I can understand the State’s reluctance to approve a ‘Two complaints and you’re finished letting your property’ policy. It leaves to much room for potential fed-up or vindictive neighbours to arbitrarily file complaints in hopes of shutting down a possibly tolerable, intermittent nuisance.

    A better idea (Take Note Cr. Spooner) would be to impose increasing fines on the registered owners of the properties so it becomes economically injurious to them to not vet their guests. If the fines were imposed as, say, $500 first complaint, $1000 second complaint, $1500 third complaint, etc. More than four complaints and the property becomes un-rentable for one year. This would hurt the owners sufficiently to comply.

    But the persons deciding what constitutes a viable complaint should be either the Police by way of filing their own complaint or some other Gov’t officer(s) to do the job.

    At those rates of fines, Byron would also create another income source which they so much crave and this should be effective in controlling the problem

    • Harry says:

      Mark, you are not correct. Read the STRA policy. The policy says that more than two SUBSTANTIATED complaints in one year then registration is withdrawn. Substantiation may come from Police attending and issuing a warning or noise abatement directive or a fine. Council compliance or Rangers may also gather evidence or issue a noise abatement order. There is no chance that it could be from a vexatious neighbour.

      Mark, you are either a holiday let owner or have never lived next to an out of control holiday let. When some of these owners are earning $2000 a day a piddling fine is nothing. It is the threat of losing registration that will have the desired effect of making owners/managers more responsible for protecting residential amenity of a neighbourhood’

      Do some research Mark.

  3. Bob says:

    Very sad that up until ten years ago this area was somewhere ppl could could come and live affordablly. Single mothers can’t afford here anymore.

  4. Jo says:

    As a neighbour of a holiday house whose occupants repeatedly breach the T&C of letting and the seemingly impossible task of having this problem rectified, I am both disappointed and infuriated at this news. As far as I’m concerned the most important provision was the threat of losing the right to continue letting and its inclusion in the strategy, the one ray of hope, in having the owners and managers of properties actually ensure the occupants abide by the terms and conditions of rental.

    The control of noise from holiday rentals is the responsibility of the managers and owners…NOT the Police. There is a clearly defined set of conditions of rental which if adhered to would never result in a complaint from neighbouring properties. Every person who rents a holiday property through an agent should be aware of these conditions of rental and be prepared to abide by them. Rules are imposed for a reason…to ensure neighbouring properties have their amenity protected.
    As things stand now, call outs to the HLO Noisy Neighbour Hotline and the assessment of the Noise breach is subject to the discretion of the Security guard sent to the property whether a fine is imposed. A second call out resulting in a second fine during the same rental supposedly has the occupants potentially evicted… In four years I have never seen this happen.

  5. Harald Ehrlich says:

    Perhaps you should clarify AirBnB’s definition of ‘Whole House’. This means separate entrance, bathroom and some basic cooking facility i.e., kettle microwave and fridge.It includes to most Byron Bay’s Granny Flats. It does NOT mean that the owners live away from the premises.

  6. BAN AIR BNB…. its not a viable option for the community at large…. we will become a statistic with another ecconomy gone to the holiday rental society and nowhere left for the community to live.

    • John says:

      Airbnb has been banned in Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam and now New York. The State government regards Byron as the jewel in the tourism crown. I doubt that they would even contemplate banning. The recently released inquiry into holiday letting actually encourages it. Strong regulation to protect the community is essential.

  7. Jenny says:

    The saddest part reading your replies, our head chair of the ARAMA (Australian Residential Managers Association) has already been trying to get a meeting and wrote reports for a few years as he predicted what has happened, but the then Mayor and current Mayor didn’t want know about it, embracing Airbnb into the community shire. My husband and I who are able to articulate all levels of impact have been asking for a meet for over a year, just to have that experience and consultation. We don’t even know if some sort group has been established with all stakeholders by the council, again, sadly doors shut on the community.

  8. David Hancock says:

    I don’t think banning Air is a viable option Di…… you know I have a little experience in this stuff. I abhor the colourless takeover of The Bay by wealthy baby-boomers. People from down south who want to remain connected to their kids who love The Bay. They own their homes in Sydney and then extend their mortgages on 3 or 4 per cent and buy in up here. They come to stay every now and then and hope to catch up with their kids…(Adults) and in the other times the place is (up to the highest bidder).

    What is this council going to do? They are a creative and interesting lot of people and frankly I have a huge respect for people who can sit around a table and listen to other peoples ideas. What is more I TRUST them. Let see what they come up with. Lets have some faith in this council. If they fail it is our democratic right to chuck them out……Best wishes David

  9. Kirsten Bindoff says:

    I think it’s disgusting… Having lived here for 21 years, raised my children here and worked here (in holiday motels cleaning up after the wealthy clientele) I have had enormous difficulty finding some where to live. Now I see why.. Greed is taking over……

  10. John Kennedy says:

    This story is so interesting. Governments at all levels have been blackmailing hard working Aussies for years and some of the last remaining small business opportunities outside the capital cities are in the accommodation sector. Millions of dollars in Development Application Fees, annual licences, hundreds of thousands of dollars in compliance costs and so on just to open a small motel, a camping ground or anything like that and you are basically joining a government “protection racket”. Unfortunately, they are not protecting anyone by allowing unregulated, non-compliant and unlicensed accommodation providers who pop up all over the place. Many don’t pay incomes taxes on the revenue, even the ATO turns a blind eye. Try to get your money back from the Council because the money you paid for the “right to compete in the market” is nothing but a black hole. Underground, off the radar, non-compliant is the way to go. PS: I’m one of the poor bastards who paid millions of dollars to a Council in Qld for a caravan park licence and long before we had the chance to repay the bank for that loan, Council have allowed free camping next door! 19 pages of bylaws for us don;t apply for them!!!! Moral of this story: never get Council approval for anything.

  11. The Parliamentary Inquiry into Short-Term Letting has recommended that the Short-Term Letting Operators be given free rein to all our Residential Housing.

    It’s time to register your objection to this sham of an Inquiry:

    It’s time to sign our Petition:

    Follow us on Facebook:

    This is very, very personal; it’s our Homes, Neighbourhoods and Communities which are being floged by State Parliamentarians, a good number of whom are profiting from this activity and now want to make it legal.

  12. ALAKH ANALDA says:

    Holiday letting by real estate agents has been going on big time in the Bay for 10 or 15 years – especially at Christmas time. It has already changed the face of Byron town since it started – around 2000? It drove renting residents of the town of byron to the outlying towns of the shire that long ago. Airbnb is just another way that people get a rental return on the property they own.
    Some of them have had nightmare rental tennants. The mind set of someone who is a permanent tennent and someone who is paying for a few days is very different. The short term rental mentality is much more respectful.
    Yes i have rented most of my life and i know what it is like. Now i dont have to rent.
    Rental accommodation here is scarce because so many people want to live here – just like in the cities where well paid employment can be found. We have to find new solutions where everyone wins.
    Political decisions like changing negative gearing only to those who are buying new buildings could be one of the solutions if it allowed more incentive for new building – giving work and accommodation in the future. But please without environmental destruction and in a sustainable and visually good blend with the natural surrounding – and allowing for specail areas to be left intact and parks and bush through out new developments.
    For our current wost problem – Noise seems to be the main source of pain for neighbourhoods – renters and rentees included.

    • Harry says:

      Alakh, you are wrong! Long term tenants, because they want to stay in a rental property generally respect the customs, norms and conventions of quiet neighbourhoods. They don’t want to be evicted due to complaints from their neighbours.
      Short term renters or holiday let occupants as a general rule come into a neighbourhood and they have a different mindset. They just want to have a “good time.” They don’t care about the disturbance that they create in damaging residential amenity. Holiday letting is a prohibited illegal activity in most residential zones.

      Residential zones are for residents, not tourist and visitor accommodation. Permanent residents want neighbours not strangers!

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