Local Residents Want Increased Regulation of Short-Term Rental Accommodation
A letter recently published by The Beast has struck a chord with some readers. The letter, titled Bondi’s Latest Clandestine Backpackers Hostel, was written by the self-proclaimed “very disgruntled, sleep deprived and unfortunate neighbour” of a building that had recently been converted into short-term rental flats.
The letter claimed that this building is now home to “48 short-term dwellers (backpackers from South America – countries like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, et al.) whose aim is to party on like there’s no tomorrow, no matter what day of the week it is.”
In response to this letter, we heard from others experiencing similar issues. One concerned resident on Beach Road said, “We have a building next door to us in Bondi and it’s party central Monday to Sunday from 10pm until 5am.”
Another Beach Road resident told us they neighbour a building which seems to be operating as an unofficial backpackers.
“Observably, the residents stay from a few days to three months. New tenants arrive at ten in the evening, and the demographic is predominantly Brazilian, and less so British persons. The general age of the residents ranges from eighteen to twenty-five years of age,” they said.
“My mother is 70-plus years of age and she is intending on moving from her home, a place she cherishes. She is emotionally and physically devastated.”
A disgruntled neighbour to similar buildings in North Bondi told The Beast that owners are “basically skirting around Council and legislation to run a backpackers, but with no management or accountability, and total disregard for community.”
Some of the issues reported include constant noise, screaming, partying, verbal abuse, furniture and rubbish dumped in front gardens and even one instance of people having sex on the front fence (ouch?!). But despite complaints to Waverley Council and the Police, these disturbances have apparently continued, causing some residents to move away or sell their homes.
I originally came to this country on a backpacker visa. I’ve never fornicated on a fence, but I do have more than my fair share of South American friends and have been known to shake my booty (poorly) to Reggaeton on many Saturday nights. But there’s a time and a place for this, and 5am on a Tuesday morning on a residential street is not it.
This issue has nothing to do with where these backpackers come from, their age, or even the fact that they are backpackers. Like it or not, Bondi will always cater on some level to short-term dwellers.
The problem here is seemingly insufficient regulation regarding the management of short-term accommodation in Bondi. After all, according to our reader’s original letter, a Bondi real estate business (who we’ve chosen not to name) legally obtained permission to convert the Ocean Road flats.
We reached out to this business who told us, via their lawyers, “All tenants at the Property have been informed of the legal requirements regarding minimum noise levels after 10.00pm and that [unnamed business] contacts each of the tenants if they receive excessive complaints from their neighbours. Additionally, [the business]’s standard leases for the property contain relevant clauses in the special conditions regarding noise level obligations for all tenants at the property.”
The real estate business confirmed that all renovations were carried out under the guidance of a private certifier who issued a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) to Waverley Council. Under current regulations, nearby residents do not need to be consulted when works are done under a CDC. They also added that most leases for the property in question are either 6 or 12 months. Some are less than 6 months but none are less than 3-month lease terms.
Meanwhile, over at Lamrock Avenue, residents are trying to prevent similar issues occurring. In May, a Development Application (DA) was submitted by a developer to build a boarding house at 15-17 Lamrock Avenue. If the development goes ahead it will produce a 94-bedroom property right next to a 116-bedroom hostel on an otherwise residential street. According to some locals, the neighbouring hostel had a long history of problems which took consistent resident involvement to resolve and residents are concerned that having both establishments in close proximity could be a step backwards and a recipe for disaster.
Local resident Haydn Keenan opposes the development.
“These boarding houses are allegedly for low income occupants and in exchange for that the developer gets to provide rooms much smaller than regulation normally requires and are potentially exempt from land tax,” he told The Beast.
“However with no oversight of whether the occupants are indeed low income, locals are concerned it will become backpackers or tourist accommodation.”
In this instance, local residents were notified of the proposed development, after which a petition of over 250 signatures was sent to Council along with over 80 individual objections to the DA. We reached out to Waverley Council who said the DA will be referred to the Waverley Local Planning Panel (WLPP).
“The WLPP allows the public to address it directly and argue their objections/support accordingly. Residents and community members are encouraged to register to address the WLPP directly when this DA comes before the WLPP. All those who have written to Council about this DA will be notified of the hearing date once it is set,” Council explained.
However, some still have concerns that, should the DA be rejected, the developer could choose to go to the NSW Land and Environment Court where only Council can appear. Here, despite the fact that Section 4.15 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act requires the impact on locals to be taken into account, residents worry their voices won’t be heard.
There’s plenty of room for short-term and low income residents in Bondi, but in order for us all to enjoy this wonderful suburb we need better regulations. If developers want to capitalise on Bondi’s appeal to visitors by offering short-term accommodation, they should be able to do so but it’s crucial that this is done in a way that is fair to other residents.
“Predominantly, owners of development sites throughout the Waverley Local Government Area have chosen to utilise the services of a private certifier,” a Waverley Council spokesperson said.
“Council believes there are many flaws in the complying development process including that private certifiers are not required to notify Council or neighbouring properties prior to issuing their decision about development consent. The process also by-passes Council’s development application assessment regime.”
“Nevertheless, it is Council’s responsibility to investigate matters concerning these premises and complaints should be made to Council’s Customer Service on 9083 8000.”
At the moment, it seems that what’s legal and fair game for the property owners isn’t necessarily pleasant for residents. The travel industry has changed massively in recent years and with the likes of Airbnb widely available, most residential buildings now have the potential to be used as short-term accommodation in some capacity. Perhaps it is time for more regulation, all the way from development proposals to compliance regarding ongoing management and complaint investigations, in order to catch up.
Until that happens, as all parties involved are doing their due diligence on paper, frustrated neighbours to incessant partying must continue to play ping pong with police, property managers and Council, and hope that someone, somewhere, takes action on their behalf.