ANGRY:  Accommodation owners meet with   MP Tamara Smith (in red) to express their concerns.
ANGRY: Accommodation owners meet with MP Tamara Smith (in red) to express their concerns. Christian Morrow

Rental plan frustration

LOCAL accommodation business owners, angry at unfair competition from sharing platforms such as Airbnb, are threatening to seek refunds of their DA fees and commercial rates as they watch the value of their council-approved businesses decline.

They are frustrated at competing against Airbnb properties that do not face the expense of meeting tough requirements and do not pay commercial rates.

About 20 compliant accommodation operators met with Ballina MP Tamara Smith last week in Byron Bay, pleading for her help to amend the state's new short- term holiday rental policy due to be voted on in state parliament this week.

Ben Franklin, Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW is backing the new plan as a welcome first step in providing long-term certainty.

"Currently this area is unregulated, (but under this new code) a new mandatory code of conduct will be implemented which will address potential impacts like noise levels, disruptive guests and effects on shared neighbourhood amenities,” Mr Franklin said.

"The code will also include a new dispute resolution process to resolve complaints and NSW Fair Trading will have powers to police online platforms and letting agents.

"Under the 'two strikes and you're out' policy, hosts or guests who commit two serious breaches of the Code within two years will be banned for five, and be listed on an exclusion register,” Mr Franklin said.

"Allowing councils to limit letting to 180 days shows the government understands a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate as every local government area faces different challenges.”

Organiser of last week's rally Victoria McEwen, spokeswoman for the Byron Hinterland Collective, said several members were on the verge of closing due to unfair competition.

"With Airbnb hosts not having to meet the high costs of approval or compliance, legitimate operators are seeing the value of their businesses collapse,” she said.

Ms McEwen, who owns Victorias at Ewingsdale and Wategos Beach said, "It took her four years and 9 months to get DA approval for our Wategos Beach guest house and I pay $14,000 in rates a year,”

"Yet an An Airbnb business down the street can open tomorrow and only pay $7,000 without meeting any of the health and Safety, Fire Regulations or Disabled Access issues.”

"If this Bill is passed through Parliament, we will almost certainly witness the extinction of some of these compliant operators within months because many of these cannot compete on an even more unlevel playing field"

"We are calling on the NSW Government to allow regional councils to enforce stricter rules around short- term holiday letting to restrict people renting out houses or rooms to 30-60 nights of the year, instead of the 180-365 as proposed.”

Business owners at Friday's meeting expressed frustration they were paying to maintain the shire's crumbling infrastructure by paying commercial rates while property owners on websites like Airbnb, Stayz, Homeaway and others made no contribution.

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