Homes may be ‘illegal’
UNIT owners are buying properties in the Douglas region unaware there could be restrictions on permanent occupancy under council laws.
A property’s purpose is decided by development and planning applications and permanent and long-term occupancy is illegal if they were built as holiday apartments.
Cairns Regional Council’s manager of development assessment Kelly Reaston said there are no restrictions under the planning application if the properties are multi-unit or permanent dwellings.
“If it’s approved for holiday accommodation or a motel, then you’re only allowed to reside in them short-term,” she said.
“Short-term is not defined the planning scheme or Body Corporate Management Act but in some of the by-laws imposed by the body corporate it’s about a 90-day period.
“There are penalties under the town planning laws in breach of development permits but we’ve taken a trying-to-assist approach and explain uses to see if it’s possible to make a change or make other arrangements.”
The council recommends giving their planning department a call to find out more about restrictions on properties before moving into or buying them.
“Getting a planning certificate is costly so what we’ve offered is to provide a letter of inquiry, which is far cheaper and gives them a summary,” Ms Reaston said.
“The best way when making purchases is to get a solicitor’s letter of inquiry or planning certificate to get insurance.
“You can make an application to change it but that requires the consent of the body corporate and most of the issues are to do with car parking - holiday apartments have a lower car parking rate compared to permanents.
“If you satisfy the car parking rate - permanent has to have two spaces - and get consent then the council can change it.”
But it is not simple and even if the body corporate consents, changing the use of an apartment could cost up to $10,000.
One local expert said the best advice is to look at alternative solutions to obtain a better income through on-site management and marketing as changing to permanent will depress the overall value of a property.
Contact the council’s planning department on 4040 3044 for more information on planning certificates or seek advice from your body corporate or legal representative.