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PLANNING FOR EQUALITY
By Justin Butterworth
REINSW Holiday & Short Term Rentals Chapter Chair

REINSW is seeking to maintain equality between owners and tenants to provide consumer choice.

Planning regulations play an important role in residential developments by controlling property usage. In the case of holiday rentals, the activity has been classified as residential since the mid-nineteenth century. Both owners and tenants have used holiday rental properties for residential activities such as eating, sleeping, washing and socializing with family and friends.

However some recent legal cases have classified (given particular circumstances) short term rentals as commercial usage instead of residential usage. Some NSW councils have broadly interpreted such cases as precedents that have been used to effectively ban holiday rentals. In these council areas, the renting of a holiday property is no longer classified as residential – even though an owner occupying a holiday property is classified as residential.

These councils have created a situation previously unseen in NSW: the discrimination between owners and renters. If such measures were to be followed by all local councils, people wanting to stay in a holiday home would be permitted or restricted depending on whether they rent or own the property.

As groups opposed to holiday rentals have been arguing for bans, there is real potential that, if left unchecked, holiday rentals could ultimately become prohibited in many areas across NSW. The future of holiday rentals is therefore uncertain.

Holiday rentals are important to many family holidays as well as local economies.

If holiday rentals were banned, consumers would have reduced options when it comes to holiday accommodation and would have to look at using serviced apartments and hotels instead of short term rentals. There are concerns that popular beachside holiday destinations would only be accessible for the rich who could afford to own a property without rental income. Home stays, house swaps, house sitting and emergency housing could also be undermined.

As reported in the February edition of the Journal, there is overwhelming public opposition to councils adopting planning changes that would effectively ban holiday rentals. Polling by Colmar Brunton showed that 86% of people surveyed opposed the proposed changes, 10% were undecided and 4% supported the proposals.

A survey of other countries’ planning systems revealed that NSW councils would go against international trends if they adopted such planning measures.

The moves to ban holiday rentals are out of step with the majority of people and will introduce a dangerous precedent of discrimination into the NSW planning system.

The NSW government must protect the residential status of holiday rentals to give all people equal access to affordable accommodation.

REINSW is presenting its case to the NSW Government in the hope that its representations will preserve the Australian tradition of renting holiday houses.

Short term rentals help in tight rental market

The tight rental market in NSW, with vacancy rates hovering around 1%, has made moving home a real challenge for renters, particularly in Sydney.

Some renters are unable to find suitable accommodation by the time their existing tenancy comes to an end and have no alternative but to place their belongings in storage and rent a short term furnished property.

“We’ve noticed a rise in renters stuck in between homes,” said Justin Butterworth from Rent-A-Home.

Often a short-term rental of four to six weeks is required – sufficiently long enough to search and achieve success with a rental application.

“If short-term rentals were banned, renters would be left without housing. It’s as simple as that,” Justin said.

Justin Butterworth, from Rent-A-Home, is the Chairman of the REINSW Holiday and Short Term Rentals Committee.