Landlord's $100k penalty
BACKPACKER slum landlord Shai Major had been ordered to pay almost $100,000 after being found guilty of illegally housing eight schoolies at his leased Byron Bay residence without consent.
Major, who represented himself, admitted not understanding legal proceedings during the hearing, and was given a paper and pen to take notes by the court.
After not being allowed to submit a written statement as evidence because parts of it were ruled irrelevant, the court heard Major's oral testimony that he rented two rooms out to eight schoolies to raise $2000 that he and his seven housemates owed on electricity bills.
Major said before he listed his available accommodation on the website schoolies.com he checked council's website and thought he was allowed to "holiday let", as his premises was zoned commercial.
But evidence given by consultant town planner Patrick Dawson proved Mr Major's theory wrong.
"There is no definition of holiday letting in the Byron Bay local environment plan," Mr Dawson said.
In his evidence Major accused the council of being racist, saying if all were Australians in his house it would not have been raided.
When council and police raided the Jonson St property on December 2 last year, the court heard they found 18 people sleeping on the premises in four bedrooms, the garage, under a tarp and in a catering caravan in "slum-like conditions".
In his verdict Magistrate Michael Dakin found Major guilty of "development without consent". Mr Dakin said the maximum penalty for the offence was $1.1 million, but his jurisdiction in the local court limited him to a maximum penalty of $110,000.
He said as Major's offence was slightly above the medium range of seriousness he would order he pay a fine of $75,000, council's legal costs of $22,000 and $83 court costs.
Major said he will contest the decision.
"I'm on the dole and legally they can only take $12 a week from me," Major said.