What began as a dispute between a neighbour and a home renter over loud noise in the central town of Terrigal may turn out to be an landmark court case. The dispute, brought into the NSW Land and Environment Court last week could threaten thousands of people who rent out their investment properties or holiday homes to short term renters.
The neighbour complained of loud and drunken parties next door when the six bedroom house next to his was rented out for school holidays and weekends. He took the case to the Land and Environment Court arguing the owner of the property should be prohibited from renting it out on a short term basis. He told the court the noise of drunken parties from next door was causing psychological damage to his family.
As with any case, there is one linchpin that can determine which way the verdict goes. That linchpin is in the definition of the term “dwelling house” as detailed in the residential zoning rules of the local council. The neighbor argues “dwelling” means a degree of permanent occupancy, and argued if it is let out for parties on a regular basis it is in breach of the Environmental Planning Assessment Act and needs approval from the local council.
The opposing argument, made my the lawyer of the home owner, Michael McHugh of Stacks Business is mostly appealing to common sense ruling that definitions. He said that if noise was the problem then the neighbour should complain to police rather than seek to stop an owner letting out their property.
The owner didn’t know it was being used for parties, and since the neighbour complained about noise she’s asked renters to sign an agreement they won’t use the house for noisy parties.
“This case will have enormous ramifications for thousands of property owners up and down the coast who rent out their investment properties or holiday homes for short term stays,” said Mr McHugh.
Tourism and letting out vacation homes for a few days or a few weeks is big business during the year. Many people’s livelihoods are tied to the ability to be able to let out their property in order to pay the mortgage or earn an income.
If the case goes against the home owner, and the ability to let out homes for short periods of time is limited, many people could be financially ruined very quickly.
The case continues and many investment and holiday home owners are watching closely.
In a strange twist, the judge told lawyers for both sides that she also owned a holiday home. The lawyers didn’t object to her hearing the case.