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Rapid response law to curb holiday let horrors

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Photograph includes Noosa Heads and Noosa River Sunshine Coast.

Noosa Shire Council is about to become the first council in Queensland, if not Australia, to insist on holiday letting landlords having a rapid response system in place to deal with neighbours’ complaints.

A new local by-law will require short-term letting hosts to provide emergency contact details for someone who lives nearby and who is able to respond to complaints by neighbours within 30 minutes.

Under the new law, which will come into effect on February 1, holiday let hosts will also be required to display contact details for the council’s 24-hour complaints hotline, where other residents can read them.

“All complaints will be directed to Council’s 24/7 hotline in the first instance, says the council’s website. 

“The hotline will contact the responsible contact person for the property to attend to the complaint within 30 minutes of them receiving the complaint. The hotline will record the complaint details and how the matter was resolved.”

According to a newsletter article by Vivienne Hooper and Tim Baker, Senior Strata Managers with Queensland company Archers, the new law was approved in October after a lengthy public consultation process and an extensive legal review.

They say the new law is intended to reduce the impacts of short-stay letting on residential occupiers and amenities by addressing complaint processes, a code of conduct for behaviour and minimum safety standards for guests.

“A major component of the law will be the requirement for owners of short-stay accommodation to appoint a manager or contact person who lives or has a place of business within 20 kilometres of the premises, to be available all day, every day to respond to complaints within 30 minutes,” say Hooper and Baker.

While this new law applies only to the Noosa Council, there is no doubt that other Councils in locations where short-stay letting is of constant debate, will be eagerly watching the outcome and could make similar moves, say the article’s authors.

Noosa Council will establish a 24/7 Council complaints hotline and complaints register and will use security services to observe and record activity at properties where required, initially on a 12-month trial basis.

The article says owners who operate short-stay letting will need to first get approval from Council and then must notify their body corporate of their plans  The unit owner will then be required to be display the approval and complaint contact details at the front of the property.

It’s no secret that apartment living in Queensland was initially founded on holiday rentals in coastal areas. That explains (but doesn’t excuse) the fact that developers can sell management rights contracts with no reference to the apartment owners who have to finance them.

It’s also no surprise that priorities have changed over the years as more people have turned to full-time residence in popular holiday areas.

That potential conflict of interest led to the creation of a second tier of body corporate buildings in Queensland, where they are designated as residential-only, allowing no short-term lets.

However, as with so many residential developments across Australia, this has been undermined over the past few years by the growth of Airbnb which has convinced politicians at every level that their holiday lets ARE residential, even the obviously commercial ones.

Preposterous as that may seem, Gold Coast City Council, in particular, has been accused of turning a blind eye to the infiltration of holiday lets into residential-only properties. 

But other council areas where the tourist dollar is not such a dominant factor in the local economy may be looking at the Noosa by-law as a means of re-establishing the balance between residents’ needs and the out-of-control spread of holiday lets.

And local councils in NSW and Victoria may well be wondering if their states’ laissez-faire short-term letting laws override any potential for by-laws that don’t prevent short-term lets but control the worst behaviour of guests and hosts.

If recent events are any guide, the current controls are making zero difference, especially when organisations are more concerned about protecting their clients’ privacy than recognising their neighbours’ needs for peace, quiet and personal safety.

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