By Luis Feliu
Tweed shire councillors are set to consider what, if any, action should be taken over illegal holiday letting as they grapple with the issue of short-term rentals in the face of a booming market.
Recent complaints over a property in the upmarket Casuarina estate on the Tweed Coast alleged to be used as a ‘party house’ had left Tweed Shire Council planners in a dilemma over whether to prosecute the owners, given council and state policies on short-term rentals are yet to be finalised.
Planners have recommended no immediate enforcement action be taken over the complaints involving a pool party and other functions at Beason Court, Casuarina, until the state’s policy position was known.
But councillors could overturn their recommendation at next Thursday’s planning committee meeting and decide to take enforcement action for the owners to cease the illegal holiday letting or face a $3,000 fine.
Council chief planner Vince Connell in his report said short-term rental accommodation has ‘accelerated rapidly’ recently ‘as a result of the internet providing a cheap and effective means of promoting this form of accommodation’.
‘Holiday letting agencies such as Airbnb, Stayz and Trivago have expanded exponentially, and are commonly utilised for accommodation bookings within the Tweed Shire,’ Mr Connell said.
In February and March, council received several complaints from neighbours of the premises at 6 Beason Court where it was alleged there had been a recent pool party there involving ’40 people with bottles everywhere’, the street ‘packed full of cars, and that it was a ‘party house and not safe for our children to play on the street’ with ‘drunk strangers out on the street with drinks and smoking’.
Mr Connell said that council’s publicly-exhibited draft planning-control policy for short-term letting should be deferred until the NSW government parliamentary inquiry into the adequacy of regulating short-term holiday letting in the state was completed, expected later this year.
He said that as a result of the delay, there is currently ‘no clear policy decision on any new planning controls affecting uses already in operation’.
He said councillors had previously indicated that enforcement action should be limited to instances of illegal use which were ‘creating significant impacts for surrounding residents’.
‘It is therefore recommended that,in light of council’s previous resolution on this matter, as well as the latest announcement by the NSW State Government, that no further enforcement action be taken in respect of unauthorised short term rental uses until a firmer policy position is introduced by the NSW State Government,’ Mr Connell said.
However, he said council officers would ‘continue to monitor the impacts of any unauthorised short term rental accommodation such as the activity at No. 6 Beason Court, Casuarina, but will not take enforcement action (fines or legal action) against the owners of properties containing these uses, unless they were creating unreasonable amenity impacts for adjoining or surrounding residents’.
‘In these instances, a report will be submitted to council to determine appropriate action.’