Miranda apartment owners fear their block will become 'backpacker hostel'

Residents in a resort-style apartment complex at Miranda fear it will become “a backpacker hostel” if authorities won’t take action to stop it being used for short-term holiday letting.

The strata committee and individual residents in The Wilshire, which has 116 units, in Willock  Avenue, hit a brick wall trying to prevent one owner letting his unit through Airbnb and Stayz.

They are angry Sutherland Shire Council declined to take action despite legal advice to the committee the operation is illegal under the Local Environmental Plan (LEP).

The council said it was awaiting the outcome of a parliamentary inquiry and would act only “where there is demonstrated significant impact to environment or amenity of residents”.

The state government said, at this stage, it was a council matter, while the Ombudsman declined to investigate the council’s refusal to act.

Strata committee chairman Rob Pithers, said it was “a broader issue than just our units”.

“It affects all unit owners because, without any consultation, their block can be turned into a backpacker hostel,” he said.

“Our major concern is everyone came here to live a quiet life, but if you get more short term people coming the units as an asset will deteriorate.”

Mr Pithers said the 28-year-old building was “in pristine condition”, with an attractive pool and landscaped area.

Residents became aware of the situation when “strangers” began roaming corridors and limited visitor parking was quickly taken.

Mr Pithers said the owner of the unit who had started short term letting attended a committee meeting.

“He did not have permission from the council, but he told us why he thought he could do it,” Mr Pithers said.

“We resolved to seek legal advice and approach the council.”

Mr Pithers said the council wrote two letters to the owner saying he was breaching zoning laws, but the operation continued.

“They then said they weren’t going to proceed any further,” he said.

A council spokeswoman said the state government released a draft policy for consultation last year seeking feedback on how the sector should be managed.

The paper had also discussed “what does and doesn’t require approval”.

“Council has made a submission on the draft policy and we understand a decision will soon be made by the NSW Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment and Planning that addresses the regulation of short-term holiday letting in NSW,” she said.

“Until further advice is received by the state government, we will act on complaints where there is demonstrated significant impact to environment or amenity of residents as an outcome of short-term holiday letting. For strata titled properties, it may be an option for owners’ corporations to address issues that arise from the use of units for short-term accommodation.”

A report by council staff in November last year said there were more than 300 properties in the Sutherland Shire registered on home renting websites and, generally, they operated without complaint.

The council decided to support better control through stronger strata by-laws, compulsory registration and industry self-management of complaints.