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Government moves on short term rentals

Geoff Helisma | The NSW Government has formally begun a process to regulate short-term holiday rentals, introducing a bill to make changes to the Strata Schemes Management Act. “The government’s short-term holiday letting plan will support the sharing economy and give consumers more choice while cracking down on bad behaviour,” Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said in a June 5 media release. He also said that a mandatory code of conduct would be developed “for online accommodation platforms, letting agents, hosts and guests, [to] … address impacts like noise levels, disruptive guests and effects on shared neighbourhood amenities”. Meanwhile, Clarence Valley Council is awaiting the outcome of the government’s actions, having decided at the October 2017 council meeting to “generally support the NSW Legislative Assembly’s recommendations” made in reaction to the Inquiry into the Adequacy of Regulation for Short Term Holiday Letting. Councillors, apart from Greg Clancy and Debrah Novak, also resolved to “request” the Minster for Planning and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis to “expedite a coordinated planning system response … in order to provide certainty and to reduce community conflict caused by the government’s delay in implementing” the recommendations. The Fair Trading Amendment (Short-term Rental Accommodation) Bill 2018 was tabled in parliament last week and is likely to be debated in the next sitting week of the Legislative Assembly (June 19-21). In relation to the Strata Schemes Management Act changes, Mr Kean said it “will allow owners corporations to adopt a by-law, with a 75 per cent majority, preventing short-term letting in their block if the host does not live in the unit they are letting out”. These changes, which will be administered by Fair Trading once enacted, will be underwritten by “the toughest mandatory code of conduct in the country”, Mr Keen told parliament in his second reading speech. “[It] will apply to all short-term rental industry participants … online booking platforms, letting agents, property managers: hosts and guests will all be subject to the code, which will set out the minimum standards of behaviour for the industry and establish the mechanisms needed for its enforcement”. Mr Keen said there would be changes to NSW planning laws, too. “A clear definition of short-term rental accommodation will be introduced,” he said. “Short-term letting will be a permitted use for residential premises, within certain limits.” Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts said – in Mr Keen’s media release – that new state-wide planning rules would come into force, including: allowing short-term holiday letting as exempt development 365 days per year when the host is present; when the host is not present, a limit for hosts to rent out properties via short-term holiday letting of 180 days in Greater Sydney, with 365 days allowed in all other areas of New South Wales; councils outside Greater Sydney having the power to decrease the 365 day threshold to no lower than 180 days per year; and, certain planning rules will apply to properties on bushfire prone land. “The 180 days a year limit approximately equates to weekends, school holidays and public holidays, so we felt this was a fair and balanced approach,” Mr Roberts said. In parliament, Mr Keen said it was “crucial that our reform supported the rights of neighbours to peacefully enjoy their homes and their neighbourhoods”. To this end, he said a “key feature of the code is the ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy; this means that hosts or guests who commit two serious breaches of the code within two years will be banned from short-term holiday letting for five years”. “There will be significant penalties for non-compliance with the terms of the code, with online booking platforms and property agents facing civil penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals,” he said.