A Byron Bay resident has told The Echo that Byron Shire Council staff have been unable to act on her complaints about her neighbours’ Airbnb activities, which she says are so intrusive she has had to buy earplugs.
‘I’m 71 years old and have been here 21 years,’ she told The Echo.
‘Over those years, I have done thousands of hours of community work, yet Council are unable to help me by enforcing compliance against this activity.
‘I’m suffering from stress and sleep deprivation because of this,’ she said.
After she asked Byron Shire Council to intervene, she says council compliance inspected the neighbour’s property.
‘I just got a letter from the council which said there are “no compliance issues identified at this moment”.’
The issue arose after her neighbours renovated their house. ‘They moved the entrance of their one bedroom Airbnb premises to be under my bedroom window.’
She says no DA was required to move the doorway entrance to the Airbnb-let premises.
‘Guests used to go through another entrance,’ she said, ‘which was closer to the neighbour’s own entrance.
‘They moved the problem, without asking me.’
The council compliance officer could only suggest earplugs and mediation.
‘I’m not interested in mediation as I believe these people won’t change,’ she said. ‘Apparently people coming up a driveway doesn’t constitute a noise complaint.
‘Whatever was said to the compliance officer, he argued it was within their legal rights. What about my rights?’
The woman says she has also documented to staff 74 times she has been woken up by late night visitors.
‘We were very friendly at one time, she says of her neighbours, adding they are a couple in the mid-50s who moved from Sydney two years ago.
‘Originally the woman wanted to start a yoga class in the garage, but that never happened; instead they are making heaps of money from Airbnb.
‘It’s booked consistently,’ she says. ‘They don’t even provide breakfast or parking, so it’s not really a proper Airbnb. There is a sense of entitlement with people like this – people are moving here and thinking they can do whatever they want.
‘After a few drinks, visitors come back up the driveway. Even though it wakes me up, I am told it’s not my problem. I bought a home in Byron Bay because I wanted to hear the ocean, but instead I have to wear earplugs.’
She added that around 16 years ago, she was part of a community group that called upon the council to act on holiday letting.
‘We handed a 6,000-signature petition to council yet there’s not been much enforcement of this activity.’
‘I just want the door to be restored to the original entrance,’ she said.
‘While I’m not against Airbnb altogether, I don’t accept Byron is just a holiday town and that we just have to put up with it.’
In reply, Byron Shire Council’s legal services co-ordinator Ralph James confirmed the council received a complaint from a Byron Bay resident in October who said the noise from a bed and breakfast operating next door to her property was disturbing her.
Mr James told The Echo, ‘Staff inspected the property, which is in a low-density residential zone, and found the door to the bed and breakfast was near the window of the person who had made the noise complaint.
‘A one-bedroom bed and breakfast accommodation in this area is permissible and does not require development consent and according to planning law, the bed and breakfast is legally allowed to operate.
‘Council understands the difficulty some people face when living in areas where guest accommodation is allowed,’ he said.
‘If the noise is determined to be “offensive,” council can serve prevention notices requiring the control of the offensive noise.
‘People do, however, have different perceptions about the definition of “offensive”so generally this type of noise is defined as continuous and loud, for example a barking dog, noisy appliances or regular parties.
‘If this is the case then people can seek a noise abatement order,’ James said.
#Name withheld to protect her neighbour’s identity.
Airbnb listings up nearly 80 per cent
According to www.insideairbnb.com, there has been a 79.6 per cent increase in Airbnb listings for Byron Shire in the last 18 months.
From April 2, 2016 to October 21, 2017, listings have increased from 1,483 to 2,665. Listings on Airbnb are tracked by www.insideairbnb.com, which includes an interactive map displaying what Airbnb properties are available.
The majority of short-term Airbnb holiday lettings appear to be entire houses and apartments, with whole dwellings increasing from 62.4 per cent to 75.9 per cent of total listings, according to the website.
Victim of Holiday Letting (VOHL)’s David Wallace told The Echo, ‘Airbnb has now overtaken Stayz as the major online disruptor.
‘Some holiday lets don’t advertise on Airbnb.
‘VOHL estimates that there is now 3,000 holiday lets in Byron Shire.’
Councillors were told at Thursday’s meeting that staff have prepared a holiday letting case for prosecution, which they intend to take to the Land and Environment Court. Details are confidential at this stage.