Recently on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, the council attempted to close down the holiday house of Don and Anne Stanfield. The couple has been using the property for their own family holidays since 2008, and rent it out for short-term accommodation for the rest of the year. This is a common practice, especially in popular destinations, where it serves the dual purposes of a place for the owner to stay, and an income for the rest of the year from tourists.
Following a complaint from a neighbor, the council decided they were in breach of planning laws and eventually won in court on the basis of rather nebulous definitions under the planning laws. None of the other neighbors were consulted.
This decision was subsequently overturned in the court of appeal, which was scathing in its judgment. Justice Anthe Philippides said the council’s application for an enforcement order should have been dismissed when it first came before the court. “(The Stanfields)’ contention before the learned judge was that the premises were properly characterized as a ‘detached house’ and as such did not require a development permit,” she said.
“The learned judge erred in finding the premises were not a ‘detached house’ and that they constituted an ‘accommodation building’.” As result costs estimated at over $100,000 were awarded against the council.
Now the local Liberal National Party MP, Glen Elmes has called for a crackdown on short-term rentals, calling them “Party houses.” This guy has to be really out of touch with his electorate, as Sunny Coast is kind of known for partying.
"The regional council here went before the Planning and Environment Court, won, then lost on an appeal," he said. "Now we're going have a talk to the local council here and see what can also be done but certainly these (partying and short-term rental) things will continue to happen in tourist type areas unless we regulate it in some way."
Well, killjoys will be killjoys.
Mr. Stanfield said, the court’s classification of their house made house-swaps, home-based businesses and on-site manager’s units potentially illegal too. “It was mainly targeting short-term rentals and that covers probably hundreds of houses and units on the Coast.”
“Taking us to court on the word of one neighbor without speaking to other neighbors or even meeting with us at the property seems to us to be gross negligence on the part of the officers involved. We were taken to court for having a holiday house yet at the same time we were paying a Tourism Levy which was expressly applied because our house was used for holiday accommodation.”