New rules winning ‘party house’ wars

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A SPATE of wild parties in Melbourne suburbs has highlighted the shortcomings of short-term “party” house rentals – an issue once rampant on the Mornington Peninsula.

In Carnegie last month a $1 million house was overrun and trashed by youths and, on 1 July, in another party gone-wrong, the walls and windows of a $3.5 million Hawthorn East house were smashed.

These incidents followed damage estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to so-called party houses in Footscray, North Melbourne, Malvern East, Werribee and Altona.

Houses were overrun, windows and doors kicked in and neighbours left fuming. Their sense of impotence was compounded when police, at one house, refused to enter a property being vandalised over safety concerns and leasing anomalies.

In the recent disasters, young women reportedly used false names and documents to rent Air BnB properties online and, to allay owners’ concerns, claimed to be part of family groups with young children needing cots.

Mornington Peninsula mayor Cr Bryan Payne said shire local laws officers had not received any complaints about party houses this term break – the first school holidays since the Short Stay Rental Accommodation regulations were introduced in April.

This confirmed his view that the tougher bylaws – the first of their kind in Victoria – were justified.

The main feature is a registration system that identifies owners of properties, or their agents, who must respond to complaints by neighbours within two hours. A code of conduct signed by landlords gives the shire control over rowdy drinking sessions, abusive guests, thumping music late into the night, car parking congestion and inadequate rubbish disposal.

Other rules include banning guests from using swimming pools, spas, outdoor decking and balconies from 10pm to 8am, and not allowing visitors between those times.

The shire may cancel a property’s registration after it receives three or more “substantiated” complaints about tenants’ activities from nearby residents over 12 months, or it receives a substantiated complaint “of such severity that immediate cancellation is warranted”.

Further fines can be issued for each day offences continue after a court has found an offence has been committed. Owners’ hip pockets could be hit with up to $3100 in fines for breaches.

Cr Payne said the tougher rules should be the responsibility of the state government. “That’s the reason we had to bring them in,” he said. “We were powerless … we’d be getting complaints and not be able to do anything about them.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 10 July 2018

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