On September 19, Scott Ovell, the economic development coordinator for the town of Huntsville, Ont., presented town council members with a proposal to license and tax short-term rentals and vacation cottages by February 2020. A four per cent accommodation tax for Huntsville hotels and motels already exists, implemented on April 1, 2019, but short-term rentals remain unregulated.
“The accommodation tax for short-term rentals has always been on the table, but we wanted to get it implemented for hotels first and then tackle the next piece,” says Karin Terziano, the deputy mayor of Huntsville. “The licensing will help us to do that.”
If the proposal becomes a bylaw, all short-term rental hosts will have to register their accommodation, charge guests the four per cent accommodation tax, and pay a small licensing fee.
Terziano, however, is adamant that the licensing process will not scare off hosts from renting out their accommodations. “The fees are not going to be such that someone would say, ‘I can’t do this because I have to pay a licensing fee,’” Terziano says. “They’re not going to be that exorbitant that that would prevent someone from [hosting].”
The reason the town is targeting short-term rentals is because most of them are operating in areas that aren’t appropriately zoned for them. “It’s kind of to legalize them in a way, because when they’re operating in zones that they’re not permitted, then they’re not really legal,” Terziano says. “The licensing is an alternative way to try to control the zoning.”
While town council does recognize that the short-term rental and cottage vacation market represents a lucrative area for growth and tourism, it does want to ensure that short-term rentals are introduced into the community legally in a way that respects both home- and cottage owners. Ovell’s proposal states that “the successful implementation of a short-term rental accommodation program in a community must be sensitive to the community’s needs and tolerances for short-term rental accommodation.”
The licensing process is still five months off from being approved and implemented, and in the meantime, Terziano says the town council will be looking for responses to its proposed plan. “We’re going to go to the actual short-term rental accommodators and the general public and get some feedback on the process we’re going to try to follow.”