Policing problem holiday houses

As peak holiday season fast approaches, some locals are bracing themselves for anti-social behaviour from people occuplying short term rental accommodation (STRA).

While the State Government has passed legislation to have STRA governed by the Office of Fair Trading through a Code of Conduct, that system is not yet in force.

In the interim, many continue to wrongly assume that Council is the body to do something about it, given there is a chapter in the Kiama Development Control Plan (DCP) outlining expected behaviours.

“It gives people false hope,” says Mayor Mark Honey.

“Council has no powers to deal with the problems.

“That was why I voted to have that chapter of the DCP repealed, because it gives people the false impression that we have the ability to control short term rentals, where in fact we don’t.

“If people have problems with holiday rentals near them, contact the police.”

The other councillors, except Mark Way, went against the staff recommendation and voted to retain the STRA chapter in the DCP during the limbo period.

“We are coming up to our busiest period, and I would suggest it would be remiss of us to withdraw the only control we have, leaving the community with no certainty,” argued Councillor Neil Reilly.

“We have to hang onto this vestige of protection for as long as we can.

“There is no timeframe for when the STRA policy will take effect, until then, councils are still responsible.

“Admittedly we don’t have much power in those controls but they are still controls.”

He quoted a letter from Fair Trading saying that until the Government implements the new policy, the operation of the STRA remains at the discretion of local councils.

“I understand some parts are unenforceable, but I feel we should keep it, even if it is just symbolic, until we see the final code,” said Deputy Mayor Andrew Sloan.

“We need to be able to argue that they [Fair Trading] put similar measures in that are enforceable.”

Councillor Kathy Rice, believing that residents will still contact Council with their issues, was successful with her motion for Council to work with the police to maintain a register of problem holiday house venues.

“This will give us an awareness of houses that cause disturbance.

“Police provide crime stats in an unidentifiable way, so without a register we won’t have awareness of the extent of the problem.”

Under the new Code of Conduct anyone will be able to lodge a complaint, against specific guests, hosts or a premises, with the Commissioner for Fair Trading.

If the Commissioner determines that the complaint is valid, they may issue:

  • a written warning notice
  • a direction to stop acting in a manner relevant to the complaint
  • record a strike
  • record a host or guest on the Exclusion Register.

Under the Code of Conduct, if two strikes are recorded in a two year period the offending guest, host or premises will be recorded on the Exclusion Register.

Under the Code of Conduct, if a guest, host or premises is recorded on the Exclusion Register both online booking platforms and traditional letting agents must not advertise the premise, any other premises of the host, or let to the guest.

Offending guests, hosts and/or premises will remain on the Exclusion Register for a five year period.

Just how successfully the new Code can be implemented remains to be seen.

Currently the new code does not restrict the time that a property can be a holiday rental in Kiama. Council is hoping to be included with a group of councils where the time is limited to 180 days.

Know who to contact
Council’s recommended approach for people wanting to complain about particular issues:

  • Call Police in relation to noise and anti-social behaviour, including consumption of alcohol on Council reserves, when the activity is occurring. The Police are the regulatory authority for investigating these incidents as can potentially turn hostile. To report a crime taking place, call 000. To report a crime that has happened, call 131 444. To prevent a crime, call Crimestoppers 1800 333 000.
  • Contact Council rangers in relation to any illegal parking of vehicles. Call (02) 4232 0444.
  • Contact Council in relation to waste and rubbish as additional collection of the Council reserve bins can be arranged in peak periods. Call (02) 4232 0444.

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