A long-awaited Code of Conduct to regulate holiday letting has been released by the government, which includes a mandatory premises register that ensures a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy for unruly guests.
Also known as short term rental accommodation (STRA), the NSW 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’.
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’.
Yet details regarding who will enforce compliance are still to be announced.
Within the code’s compliance and enforcement section (page 21), there are no responsibilities defined, other than what the commissioner can do with the findings.
The Echo asked Mr Anderson’s office, ‘Does the government expect that local councils and police will provide the commissioner with evidence that an industry participant has contravened this code? If so, won’t this be an added burden on their resources?’
A spokesperson from Mr Anderson’s office replied, ‘Any industry or non-industry participant can lodge a complaint about an alleged breach of the code. This includes neighbours, owners, corporations, but also police or councils etc, if they wish. There are no barriers. There will be more details about the complaints process prior to the code coming online on December 18’.
Meanwhile, 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’.
‘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’.
He said that unregulated STRA is a driving force behind housing stress and lack of rental availability.
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 favours hosts, says 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’.
Mr Luke said despite most problems involving occupant behaviour occurring outside business hours, the code states that a host or the host’s authorised representative must be contactable within ordinary hours, 8am to 5pm daily.
‘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’.
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment 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’.