Sydney City crack down on illegal and unsafe rentals

Sydney city accomoodation 1










These share accommodation in city can cost

upto $300 a room and now  are being targeted

by the City of Sydney investigation

A dedicated new City of Sydney investigation squad that includes former members of Scotland Yard and the Australian military police is targeting illegal accommodation providers, including large organised networks.

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For the past year, the City has been ramping up its efforts to shut down illegal accommodation providers, through increased investigations, as well as an educational campaign targeting universities and tertiary institutions to advise students about safe rental choices.

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The City is also liaising with councils experiencing similar issues and formed closer working relationships with key state and federal government agencies.

The Unauthorised Accommodation Investigation Team was established in March and has since executed more than 20 search warrants at properties across the city, obtaining evidence and gathering witness statements with the assistance of the NSW Police Force.

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The City is the first council in NSW to establish a specialist investigations team using a multi-agency approach to investigate reports of illegal use of property.

As the illegal accommodation networks have become more organised in the past year or so, their landlords have been refusing to allow council staff access to investigate properties. This has led the City to focus on gathering evidence needed to apply to the courts for search warrants.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City’s new specialist team was focussed on disrupting share-accommodation providers operating a network of rental properties, which are illegally subdivided, unsafe and overcrowded.

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“A number of recent investigations have highlighted the increasing problem of illegal accommodation providers, as well as the obstacles and safety issues facing council staff investigating complaints,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Some of the complaints we received were new territory for council staff because they involved organised syndicates operating illegal accommodation networks. In the past, our staff who have attended inspections have been verbally threatened and abused.

“Evidence we’ve recently collected suggests multiple offences are taking place, some of which are outside councils’ powers and responsibilities. This means a multi-agency approach is the best way to disrupt operations and deter new operators from entering this illegal market.

“Because of the highly organised nature of some of these operations ”“ and their level of deception ”“ the City felt a dedicated team with specialist investigative skills was required to crack down on this practice that is putting the safety of vulnerable young people at risk.
“The new team includes former police officers with skills in counter-terrorism and forensic evidence gathering who are dedicated to stopping this concerning issue. We are taking a multi-agency approach, co-operating with NSW Police Force, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW  Fair  Trading, the Australian Tax Office and other relevant agencies.”

Council is often denied entry to search reported premises and needs to gather sufficient information to convince a magistrate to grant a search warrant.

By forming a team with police-standard investigative skills, the City has been able to compile solid dossiers of information, which have resulted in 20 search warrants being granted and executed in the past six weeks.

The new investigation team is headed by City Investigative Specialist Roy Cottam, a former Senior Detective who has worked with New Scotland Yard’s Specialist Operations Command. Mr Cottam also held senior management roles with the Police Integrity Commission in NSW, and lectures on criminology, organised crime and leadership with a number of universities.

Mr Cottam is assisted by a team that have held roles in the NSW Police Force and the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police. He said unauthorised short-term accommodation was a growing issue across the Sydney metropolitan region and other global cities.

“The issue of unauthorised accommodation use is complex and ranges from technical breaches, through to more high-risk fire safety and building-code violations where illegal building works have been undertaken to facilitate overcrowding,” Mr Cottam said.

“Properties that are significantly overcrowded ”“ with unauthorised building works and fire safety defects ”“ are our investigative priority and the area where we’ll take immediate action due to the higher safety risks and negative impact on other residents.

“We will also focus our resources on those who take advantage of vulnerable people by setting up networks of unauthorised share accommodation for large-scale financial gain.

“We want to send out the strong message ”“ we are coming after you.”

The City can’t comment on individual investigations as they are ongoing and future court action is likely.

Quick stats on the City of Sydney Unauthorised Accommodation Investigation team:
Number of open investigations: 38
Number of search warrants executed: 20


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