A long-awaited Code of Conduct to regulate holiday letting has been released by the NSW government, which includes a mandatory premises register that the government says ensure a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy for unruly guests.
Also known as short term rental accomodation (STRA), the government say the code comes into effect December 18, 2020.
At 24 pages, the code aims to be ‘a state-wide planning framework to achieve consistency and certainty across local planning controls’.
It applies to ‘online accommodation platforms, letting agents, facilitators, hosts and guests’.
Meanwhile, the government is yet to approve Byron Shire Council’s attempts to self regulate, which includes non-hosted STRA’s to 90 days.
Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Anderson (Nationals MP) says of the code, ‘The standards are enforceable, with powers available to NSW Fair Trading Commissioner to take disciplinary action, including penalties and exclusion from the industry for repeat offenders’.
Lack of enforcement clarity
But Byron Shire councillor Michael Lyon (Independent) said, ‘It’s a toothless tiger at this stage. Who is going to enforce it? None of this will be able to take shape until the SEPP instrument for STRA is released, scheduled for June 2021’.
‘Of more concern is that Byron Shire Council have been attempting to get their own local solution implemented to restrict STRA to 90 days. We were made an election promise which we continue to work towards getting implemented. We have been told we must now provide an economic analysis, but [have been] given insufficient detail as to the scope. Do we consider the impact on people who spend half their income on rent? Do we consider the economic impact on workers who are forced to live out of the Shire? How about the impact on those workers lining up at the Ewingsdale interchange every morning because they cannot afford to live close to town?
‘The main game in Byron Shire is housing availability and affordability for our residents – families and workers. There is much to do in this space, but one key component will be to restrict non-hosted STRA to 90 days so we can move some properties back into the long-term rental pool.
‘The housing stress in this area is among the worst in Australia, the rental vacancy rate is close to zero, and the verdict is back – unregulated STRA is a driving force behind this. The latest snapshot shows around 3,500 of the shire’s dwellings are listed on Airbnb, 80 per cent of which are entire homes. This represents 20 per cent of our overall housing stock. Our housing has become big business to some. Streets have no neighbours and suburbs few residents.
‘Byron Council have a plan to address our housing crisis and we are continuing to work with the State Government to honour its commitment to our community and implement it’.
Code biased in favour of hosts: VOHL
Meanwhile, Doug Luke from Victims of Holiday Letting (VOHL) says the new code is a tentative step in the right direction for protecting the residential amenity rights of neighbours of holiday lets.
‘However, the proposed regulations are biased in favour of hosts, STRA management companies and online providers’. ‘There were no representatives on the code committee of community groups representing neighbours affected by STRA, who have most insight into the problems and how to solve them. Most code committee members consisted of representatives of the STRA industry, and others who profit from STRA.
‘The code states that a host or the host’s authorised representative must be contactable within ordinary hours, 8am to 5pm daily, to manage guests, the premises, neighbourhood complaints and other issues related to the use of the premises for STRA.
‘The major issue with this is that most problems involving occupant behaviour occur outside these hours. Many guests are in “party mode”, have no connection or obligation to the local community, and, have a sense of entitlement that they can do what they like as they have paid for their stay. Hosts and their representatives are abrogating their responsibilities if they do not deal with these issues at all hours. The impression conveyed to the public is that hosts feel it is alright for neighbours’ sleep to be disturbed by their guests, but they will not have their sleep disturbed by getting out of bed to deal with guest disturbance. This represents a huge double standard.
‘There needs to be the requirement that the owner/manager must be contactable 24 hours, seven days a week to be able to respond to complaints from neighbours within 30 minutes to deal with issues such as offensive noise, parties and anti-social behavior, which affect the residential amenity of the neighbourhood. This is the same proposed regulation that was in Byron Council’s STRA policy three years ago.
‘Failure to respond or failure to deal effectively with the issue should be a penalty (strike) against the host. Approved accommodation providers such as staff in hotel, motels and B and B’s, or security, are onsite 24/7 to deal with any issues. It should not be any different for STRA hosts’.
Meanwhile, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) say they are also developing a ‘government-run premises register and state environmental planning policy for short-term rental accommodation, which will round out the reforms to this sector and launch in 2021’.