In the case of Gold Coast City Council v Christophi  QPEC 62
, the Planning and Environment Court considered an application by the Gold Coast City Council seeking that Mr Talaat Christophi be punished for contempt of court for his contravention of orders made by the court on 22 July 2013. The relevant court order required Mr Christophi to not use his premises for any purpose other than a single detached self-contained dwelling as defined in the council’s planning scheme for the exclusive use of one household only, unless otherwise authorised by an effective development permit.
The court held that the letting of the individual rooms in his house was a use for a purpose other than a single detached self-contained dwelling for the exclusive use of one household only and as such Mr Christophi was in contempt of the court order. The court imposed a fine of $5,000 and ordered that the unlawful use of Mr Christophi's house be ceased within 28 days and that he pay the council's costs of and incidental to the application on a standard basis.
Council took enforcement action against Mr Christophi for the unlawful use of his house and consequential orders were made by the court which were not opposed by Mr Christophi
The council previously took enforcement action against Mr Christophi in respect of the unlawful use of his house and unlawful building work which had been carried out by Mr Christophi.
Following a mediation, the court made orders requiring, among other things, Mr Christophi to not use his house for any purpose other than a single detached self-contained dwelling for the exclusive use of one household only, unless authorised by an effective development permit (paragraph 5). The court orders were not opposed by Mr Christophi.
Mr Christophi’s failure to comply with the court order resulted the council bringing an application before the court seeking that he be punished for contempt of court
Since the court orders were made, Mr Christophi continued to individually let out rooms in his house by way of separate rooming agreements. The tenants were required to comply with house rules and they shared the kitchen and laundry facilities of the house. Evidence was adduced from a former tenant which suggested that not all residents of the house knew each other and there was limited interaction between the residents.
Before the council brought the application before the court, the council wrote to Mr Christophi on two separate occasions reinforcing the importance of his compliance with the court orders and noting that the manner in which his house was being used constituted a non-compliance with paragraph 5 of the court order.
Despite that, Mr Christophi did not seek to regularise the use by obtaining an appropriate development permit. The court observed that he berated staff of the council at the hearing and made groundless allegations challenging the character and reputations of the council’s officers, witnesses and legal representative.
The letting of individual bedrooms by way of rooming agreements constituted a breach of court order and a fine was an appropriate penalty for the contempt
The court found that the letting of individual bedrooms by way of rooming agreements by Mr Christophi for different periods to people who did not know or had limited interaction with each other constituted a breach of paragraph 5 of the court order. The court observed that the conduct of Mr Christophi was "deliberate and calculated" and as such he was in contempt of the court order.
The council submitted that a fine was an appropriate penalty for the contempt, with which the court agreed. The court considered a fine of $5,000 was appropriate taking into account Mr Christophi’s conduct and attitude as well as his capacity to pay the fine.
The court also declared that the letting of individual bedrooms in his house was not a lawful use and ordered that it be ceased within 28 days to avoid causing undue hardship to the tenants.
The council sought its costs against Mr Christophi in respect of the application. The court considered it appropriate that the council’s costs of the application be paid by Mr Christophi on a standard basis having regard to the prior warning given by the council in relation to the breach of the court order, his conduct at the hearing and the groundless allegations made by him.
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