Byron letting row gets legal
By Megan Kinninment
A group of 250 disgruntled property owners has threatened to sue Byron Shire Council and individual councillors over a planned crackdown on holiday letting.
In a letter to Byron mayor Jan Barham and fellow councillors, the property owners ? calling themselves HLO Byron Incorporated ? have threatened legal action if the council does not immediate- ly withdraw letters sent to local real estate agents advising them that holiday letting in residential areas is unlawful.
Cr Barham will meet with the HLO group on Friday to sort through the legal issues before a scheduled stakeholder forum on holiday letting in early October.
The HLO group is opposed to letters sent in August to Byron Bay real estate agents advising them that using residential homes for the purpose of holiday letting is unlawful because it constitutes a 'tourist facility' under the Byron LEP 1988.
HLO Inc claims the letters are misleading and wants the council to publicly apologise, or face legal action.
"Our clients may have a right to recover damages from council based on negligent misstatement," HLO's legal advice reads.
"These damages could amount to many millions of dollars and would be ruinous to the council."
HLO Byron Inc's Sydney lawyers, Blake Dawson Waldron, claim individual councillors may be also liable for any damages incurred.
However, Cr Barham yesterday said she was sticking by the legal advice her council had received.
"My understanding is that the letters were legal and it is quite right that people should be informed about the issues," Cr Barham said.
"This is a big issue for Byron and I don't think HLO are aware of the level of concern there is in the broader community."
Yesterday, HLO treasurer, Hayter's Hill retiree David Gillespie, said his group did not want to end up in the courts with the council. It preferred to work towards regulation of the industry, he said.