Byron seeks exemption from govt holiday-let policy

Paul Bibby

Byron Shire Council is seeking an exemption from the state government’s new short-term holiday-letting laws in a last ditch bid to preserve its policy of restricting short-term letting in residential areas.

However, short-term holiday letting advocates are pushing for even less regulation of the industry, and some are openly discussing strategies to avoid the 180-day cap the government is proposing.

On June 4, the NSW government announced a series of long awaited proposed changes to short-term letting rules that will have significant implications for property owners and renters across the region.

Most notably, the new laws explicitly state that short-term holiday letting is allowed in residential areas.

This significantly undermines Byron Council’s policy of cracking down on this practice on the basis that it is an ‘unauthorised use’ that takes much-needed housing stock out of the rental market.

The new laws pave the way for an increase in short-term holiday letting in the shire by giving homeowners and investors a green light to let out their homes and granny flats without fear of prosecution by the council.

Under the new laws, Council may have the power to prevent property owners from letting out their houses or flats for more than 180 days per year if they don’t live there; however, it’s unclear how it will preserve community amenity and stem the holiday-letting tide.

Greens councillor Michael Lyon told The Echo Council was not going down without a fight.

He said it would apply for a special exemption from the laws, which would allow Council to implement its own policy.

‘There’s a small window of opportunity to seek an exemption from the new policy from the minister for planning,’ Cr Lyon said.

‘Council staff are seeking to make contact with the minister to get an urgent meeting about it.

‘The negative impact of this policy on housing supply and rents is unquestionable.’

The shire’s registered accommodation providers – those with specific approval to run tourist-accommodation businesses – are also hitting back.

They have taken to social media urging those who are unhappy with the ‘absurdly destructive holiday-letting changes’ to lobby for change by emailing the NSW premier and the minister responsible, Matt Kean.

Closed door meetings

However, most concede privately that the chances of convincing the government to either amend its policy or grant Byron an exemption are slim.

This is particularly the case given that the new laws were the outcome of delicate, closed-door negotiations involving Minister Kean, local MPs from Sydney’s eastern suburbs and – it appears – representatives from the holiday-letting industry.

According to the publicly available ministerial diary disclosures of both Kean and planning minister Anthony Roberts, both men met with representatives from short-term-letting platforms Airbnb and Stayz in the months leading up to the policy announcement.

When asked whether he or his government had been unduly influenced by the short-term-letting industry in developing the new laws, Mr Kean declined to comment directly, saying only: ‘We have consulted widely with key stakeholders, and the broader community on these reforms’.

One industry insider said that Council’s attempt to get special treatment was ‘just wasting everybody’s time’ as there was ‘no way the state government will exempt them from the laws’.

Letting cap

However, Council may have more success in imposing a 180-day cap on short-term holiday letting in the Shire.

Under the proposed rules, regional councils can implement this cap in cases where the letting host (usually the property owner or an agent acting on their behalf) does not live there.

By contrast, hosts who live on the property in question can let to their heart’s content unless there is a specific clause in their development consent forbidding the practice.

Cr Lyon said Council would be seeking to implement the 180-day cap.

But the prospect has drawn strong opposition from some holiday-letting hosts in the shire.

President of the Holiday Letters Organisation (HLO) John Gudgeon said introducing a 180-day cap would have a ‘significant negative impact on the economy’.

‘A lot of people with property in the shire let their homes more than 180 days a year,’ he said,

‘People are really worried about the impact… I think it’s quite political.

‘While we welcome the planning certainty that the new laws provide by explicitly providing for short-term letting as an exempt development in residential zones, we would like to see the 180-day cap option amended before the bill becomes law.’

Code of conduct

Another aspect of the new laws that has some hosts concerned is the proposed code of conduct that seeks to limit the impact of short-term holiday letting on neighbours.

While the detail of the code is yet to be released, the government says that if guests staying at a holiday let commit two serious breaches within two years, the host will be banned from letting for five years.

The Echo has learned that a ‘serious breach’ will be defined as ‘any conduct that unreasonably interferes with a neighbour’s quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their home’.

Mr Gudgeon said this aspect of the new laws was unfair on hosts and was ‘open to abuse’.

‘We support the concept of the code and the need to limit the impact on neighbours, but not the detail in its current form.

‘It needs to be worked out in a way that is fair and equitable for everybody,’ he said.

By contrast, Cr Lyon said the code was ‘the only thing the government has done right’.

‘We’ve been asking for something like this for the past two years, but every time we sought to introduce it into our local environment plan (LEP) it was struck out,’ he said.

‘That they have now included it is scant consolation for what is otherwise a disastrous policy response.’

15 responses to “Byron seeks exemption from govt holiday-let policy”

  1. Liz L says:

    Wondering if Council would have more chance with a strong protest voice from the public to add weight to the request. What about another 5,000 + submissions on the subject, petitions and public meetings? I am sure there is much argument and support for a Byron exemption.

    • Cr Michael Lyon says:

      Hi Liz, that’s a fantastic idea and I think we should mobilise on this sooner rather than later. We need to get the understanding across on this, we are losing our housing stock and have no way to protect it under these laws.

  2. Harry says:

    Quoting from the article “The Echo has learned that a ‘serious breach’ will be defined as ‘any conduct that unreasonably interferes with a neighbour’s quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their home’.
    Mr Gudgeon said this aspect of the new laws was unfair on hosts and was ‘open to abuse’.”

    Mr Gudgeon needs to acknowledge that owners and managers are responsible for the bad behavior that disrupts neighbour’s residential amenity. If their so called vetting, more like the production of a valid credit card, and management have failed then owners and managers are responsible for stopping disruption and not allowing it to continue for hours. it should not be the Police or Council Enforcement’s responsibility. Owners and managers have a moral and ethical duty to prevent, and, if this prevention fails, resolve disturbance caused by holiday let occupants. Absolutely no problems if the owner lives beside the holiday let!

  3. There you all go again carrying on as if you are somehow special. No EXEMPTION for knob jockey central


    • Liz L says:

      Of dear, Glenn, you couldn’t be more misled. It isn’t the rich or even ‘knobs’ who will be protected by an exemption but people who just want a house and a neighbourhood to live in – peacefully – not to holiday rent it to make mega bucks. Renters and owner occupiers alike just want a fair go. People who have gone through the right channels to establish a BnB just want a fair go as do commercial rate-paying motels, resorts and backpackers.

  5. Jackie says:

    We rent to a long term resident but are thinking about holiday letting because our tenant is subletting- no that not against the law, as long as they are named on the lease. We use a local real estate agent to manage the property- with a pretty high turnover of staff. The last time we had an inspection at our 4 bedroom townhouse, that we let to two adults with two children there were beds for 10 people set up including in the garage!! We’ve spoken to neighbours and there are parties that get out of control on a regular basis, and it’s kind of a backpackers paradise.I’ve also heard that a few businesses are run from the property as well. We thought when we first started renting let’s get a local family in with kids, they’ll be reliable. They got 3 cats even though we didn’t want animals. We lost that battle too. I know some people are being ‘priced out’ but this surely isn’t an isolated case where the renter is taking full advantage of tenancy laws. So we are giving notice to the tenant ( I’m sure she won’t go easily). No we are certainly not rich, but we have and still do work very hard for what we have.

    • Harry says:

      Jackie, holiday letting is still illegal in residential zones in Byron Shire. It appears that you have chosen the wrong real estate agents to rent your property on your behalf. What makes you think that these agents or any others are going to manage it better for holiday letting. Plenty of examples of holiday lets being absolutely trashed in Byron Shire

    • Gaz L says:

      Jackie, have you investigated including a ‘no subletting’ clause in the lease as well as a ‘no pets’ clause if required? Agents doing their job should be alert to these things with scheduled inspections. Surely tenants want good references when they leave?

    • Mike says:

      I Feel very sorry for you Jackie, you have shown one of the many possibilities. I moved from my house because my permanent neighbours who are owner occupiers drove me crazy with the noise and they were probably in their 60s. The other neighbour was a holiday let and we never had any trouble as they were usually families with young kids on holiday. There seems to be no easy answer. Bad permanent reighbours can not be moved. Bad tenants can be hard to move on too. Good luck

  6. John says:

    The government’s draconian policy is a result of collusion between government ministers Airbnb, Stayz (Homeaway) and the holiday letting mob. How undemocratic to require a vote of at least 75% to not allow holiday letting in strata. What has happened to the principle of simple majority?

    It will be interesting to see which online disruptors has donated cash and how much to this Coalition government.

  7. Not Happy Byron says:

    Mr Gudgeon rallies against a 2 strikes and your out, I think he should re – read the HLO Byron / HRIA submission which clearly advocates a 2 strikes and your out and Registration. We in other Local areas that have already resolved our STRA challenges are sick of Byron Bay being dysfunctional and an able to resolve their own LGA challenges without dragging the rest of NSW down. Shame on you all.

    • John says:

      You need to undertake more than superficial research. I agree that John Gudgeon is hypocritical in his statement in that his submission did advocate the 2 strikes and you are out policy.

      Byron Council did attempt to regulate holiday letting. After a great deal of public contributions, including from holiday letting participants and the community, a policy was developed. NSW Parliamentary legal Counsel rejected every regulation that protected residential amenity. This included the 3 substantiated complaints and registration is withdrawn. Wyong/Gosford Council’s policy of 3 written complaints was accepted in 2014 by Parliament. This has not worked as there has been a number of holiday lets in these LGA’s where there has been more than 3 written complaints and ability to holiday let has not been withdrawn. Any Code of Conduct developed by the Coalition Government is bound to fail.

  8. Not Happy Byron says:

    I think you should do more than superficial research , there have been quite a number of Properties which have been required to go for a DA once 3 complaints have been made. They have been approved on a 12 month review basis. The Code up till now has been voluntary and undermined by the portals them selves.The history of the Code was muddied by self interest and by many in Byron Bay. Market failure has occurred because of the portals business model which needs to change. The number of properties advertised that do not meet the code (2 adults per bedroom ) indicates the portals lack of resolve in changing the business model. No body (except the portals) supports Rogue operators who operate outside the code requirements and effects the amenity of neighbours . They can not be classified as Short Term Rental Accommodation and therefore illegal. Its important that NSW goes back to A NSW MANDATORY CODE rather than the ridiculous national code which has never been supported by any Gov. body and was develop purely to support the portals business model. NSW has never needed a national code while we had a State Code endorsed by Brad Hazzard the then planning Minister. The Central Coast council has been hamstrung because of the distraction of the State Code V.1 because it references the Planning a proved code which was undermined by the national Code. Guess who supported the national code ? Please do not make false and misleading claims that other LEP’s have failed

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