The rear of the property where council alleges up to 19 occupants were staying.
The rear of the property where council alleges up to 19 occupants were staying. Kate O’Neill

Schoolies 'slum'

EIGHT schoolies at Byron Bay each paying $800 a week were allegedly living in squalor, sleeping on mattresses on the floor of an asbestos-risk garage or on the grass outside with limited access to toilets and shower facilities.

The Jonson St residence, which crammed in 18 people including the schoolies, was also a fire trap with no working fire alarm or fire extinguisher, Byron Shire Council's governance manager Ralph James said after staff and police raided the property yesterday morning.

"It is council's view that the premises posed a significant fire safety risk to the occupants," he said.

Council staff raided the property and issued the tenant a court notice to immediately cease operating the residential premises as an accommodation venue after council received complaints from neighbours and was alerted to internet advertisements claiming the property was suitable for schoolies.

"Upon entering the property, council staff discovered the garage was being used for dormitory-style accommodation comprising mattresses on the floor, which lacked adequate ventilation or damp proofing to maintain healthy conditions," he said.

The council staff were yesterday helping the schoolies find alternative accommodation.

Mr James, who described the accommodation as "appalling", said there was minimal food and hygiene standards posing serious health risks and minimal access to toilet, bath and laundry facilities.

"And the premises were constructed with asbestos building products that were in a dilapidated state, which also posed a health risk to occupants."

He said the eight young people, who had been staying at the property as part of their schoolies celebrations, told the council staff they paid $800 a week to stay in the property "which clearly lacked even the most basic health and safety measures".

"For property owners to take advantage of young visitors simply looking to have an enjoyable time in the Byron shire is inexcusable," Mr James said.

"It is one thing to place too many people in a single dwelling and run the serious risk of a tragedy occurring had something gone wrong at the property, particularly during a week where people are often busy having a good time and acting in a carefree manner.

"But to charge an exorbitant amount of money for something so potentially dangerous is simply not on."

The tenant, who has not been named, is due to appear before Byron Local Court on December 8.

Mr James warned other tenants and owners that the council would vigorously pursue those who flouted holiday letting regulations.

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