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With the cost of living increasing, many homeowners are considering venturing into Airbnb on the Gold Coast and cash-in on the seemingly profitable short term accommodation market.

However, without proper approval from Council renting your property through house share services like Airbnb even once could mean your use of your land is unlawful!

Existing Lawful Usage Rights

Hosts who received the necessary approvals from both the Council and State when they began their operations are considered to have “existing lawful usage rights”.  This means they remain safeguarded under the Planning Act 2016 (Qld), even when planning regulations change over time which potentially render their property ineligible for the same activities.

This means where property share hosts acquired the required council permit and a rental property license when their local council planning regulations permitted such activities, they are still protected by those regulations, even if the planning laws have now changed.

Example: if an Airbnb host began renting out their property in 2012, when the local planning scheme allowed it, and continues to do so today, they have the right to continue this use of their land even though the current planning framework does not permit the same activity.

New Hosts

Without an existing use right, you must comply with the planning laws which are current at the time you commence the new use of the land.

This means new property hosts will need to seek approval from the Gold Coast City Council for a Material Change of Use Development Application (MCU). The Application costs over $8,000.00, and there is no guarantee of approval.

This is the case even if you only intend to rent your home on sharing apps for a few weeks each year. Where you enter a letter arrangement of less than 90 days, you are engaging in short-term accommodation and require Council Approval to use the land for that purpose.

Here’s the catch…. Each time you swap between using the property as your home or for short term accommodation, you need to apply for a new MCU!

In essence, you must decide to either use your property for short-term letting or as your home – you cannot lawfully do both.

Council also categorises the two uses differently for determining the rates that apply to the land. Rates are significantly higher for properties used for short term accommodation.

Consequences of unlawful use

If you don’t obtain the required MCU, your use of the land can be deemed unlawful and you risk being issued with a Show Cause Notice by Council. If your use of the land is not made lawful, Council can take enforcement action which can include fines of more than $600,000 for individuals and over $3M for companies. Council also has the ability to issue on the spot fines of over $1,500.00 per day for non-compliance.

Operating your home as an Airbnb without approval is very risky and could prove incredibly costly.  

If you find yourself in this situation we are here to help.  Contact our property team on (07) 5591 5099 to arrange an appointment to discuss your rights and obligations.

Author: Pip Davis

Director: Paul Davis

Date: 7 March 2024

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