“You treat this place like a hotel …”

There’s a war being fought from building to building in Sydney right now, as councils try to curb the spread of executive rentals in apartment blocks. The laws are, in most cases, quite simple: if your building is zoned residential, then the minimum lease period on any apartment is three or six months.

Anything shorter than that is usually deemed to be a commercial enterprise and is therefore forbidden. Planning laws vary from council to council but are generally along these lines. North Sydney has a weird rule that allows one, but only one, commercial short-term let per building. Go figure!

But what’s the problem with short-term rentals anyway? Apart from undercutting the hotel trade and causing more wear and tear on the building from frequent moves in and out, people only staying a week or two often feel no compunction about ignoring the rules of the building. Some will even rent these flats specifically because they intend to behave badly and they know, unlike hotels, there are no staff on hand to curb their excesses. Three-day weekend parties are a common source of complaint and you wouldn’t want to be living next door to one of these places during schoolies week.

In our research for our book Apartment Living (ABC Books) we heard about a wedding party that hired an apartment as their base to prepare for the big day. The best man hung one of the bridesmaids dresses on the fire sprinkler valve in the ceiling and, predictably, the sprinklers went off, flooding the apartment. The guy panicked and ran down to the lobby in his underpants, forgetting the keys and locking himself and the fire brigade out of the apartment.

The end result was tens of thousands of dollars of damage that affected apartments 12 storeys below the culprit’s, and one of the building’s lifts being out of action for several days after water got out into the hallway and down a lift shaft.

We also found another high-profile building where moves to stop short-term rentals were stymied by the owners of one illegal enterprise who got elected on to the Executive Committee and voted to drop all action.

If you live next to an apartment that is virtually an hotel room and your EC is not listening to your complaints, find out who is running the business, report them to your local council’s planning department and keep plugging away till you get a result. Apartment buildings may have “resort facilities” these days but that doesn’t mean your life has to be the holiday from Hell.

Jimmy’s Mailbox

I live in a gated community and we have by-laws that forbid residents who own more cars than they do parking spaces from parking in the visitors’ car park. However, this is flagrantly ignored and the Body Corporate Manager says it is really hard to get anything done. What can we do?
JG, Gold Coast

First of all, have there been frequent complaints from visitors who can’t find anywhere to park? If so, tell your BCM (Building Manager in NSW) to implement the by-laws or explain why not in writing. Are they giving someone preferential treatment or are they just too timid to take action? Either way they’re not doing their job properly and could lose it. Check with your local Department of Fair Trading for more advice.

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