Fight over holiday lets goes to court
DateApril 23, 2013 124 reading now
Julie Power, James Robertson
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Shocked: Rhonda Bennic, at her rental property at Terrigal. Photo: Marco Del Grande
Neighbours of a six-bedroom holiday rental in Terrigal are asking the NSW Land and Environment Court on Tuesday to stop the owner from renting out her property.
Should the case succeed, the lawyer representing the owner of the holiday home warns it will cast doubt on the legality of the temporary rental properties run by thousands of people for weekends and school holidays across NSW.
It is a similar story up and down the coast where councils are developing their own regulations governing the short-term market.
The owner of the Terrigal holiday home, Rhonda Bennic, said if the court finds against her, it will ruin her. ”It was a total shock to me, and the outcome could not just affect me and ruin me, but if an order was made, it’s going to realistically affect tourism on the central coast,” she said.
Her next-door neighbours John and Rosemary Dobrohotoff argue that the suburban street where they live with their two small children is zoned residential, and short-term letting is prohibited.
Their lawyer Samar Singh-Panwar of Conditsis & Associates Lawyers in Gosford said two issues were behind the complaint.
”The reality for my clients is the noise issue and the fact that (the house) is being used for bucks parties and teenage parties on a regular basis. This use is in breach of the Environmental Planning Assessment Act,” he said. ”And if she [Ms Bennic] wants to use it for those purposes, as a short-term rental, she needs approval.”
The dispute between the neighbours started over a series of noise complaints when Ms Bennic’s house, which sleeps 12 adults, was rented without her knowledge for bucks parties and teenage parties.
Since the complaints, she has asked renters to agree to a code of conduct which includes a promise not to use the premises for parties or as a venue. The code was written by stayz.com.au where she lets her house. This has cost her significant business, she said.
She said many of the noise complaints relate to previous owners, who ran a bed and breakfast on the premises.
Gosford City Council has been developing a draft town plan which could regulate short-term rentals, but it has not been enacted.
She said a decision would make things ”black or white (and) not the grey shades I am in.”
The issue is difficult for coastal councils, where short-term lets are an economic boon. Shoalhaven changed its zoning laws to allow short-term rentals, protecting itself from a legal challenge.
But short-term renters bring not only complaints, but concerns that communities can become hollowed out by tourism. Notwithstanding a construction boom, the last two censuses have found Byron Bay’s population is decreasing. And councils find short-term lets place a strain on services.
”Eight backpackers are hitting facilities harder than a family of four,” said Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson.
The council says short-term rentals are illegal and often takes action against owners whose rentals generate complaints. Owners usually close their short-term rentals before a court ruling.
”We’re very slowly and expensively weeding out bad operators,” said Cr Richardson, who will be watching the decision with interest.
Instead of regulating the more than 700 short-term stays in and around Byron, it is trying to find a middle-ground solution. The council is considering a precinct approach, which would allow only a low proportion of residential houses to be rented out.
Declaration: Stayz.com.au is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/fight-over-holiday-lets-goes-to-court-20130422-2iara.html#ixzz2RFiXKSrN