The town of Fort Erie, Ont. is cracking down on short-term rental owners who are not abiding by the provincial government’s COVID-19 restrictions. During a council-in-committee meeting on April 19, the town council unanimously adopted a new amendment requiring short-term rental owners to obtain valid verification that a guest is in need of housing.
Under the Ontario government’s current COVID-19 restrictions, short-term rentals can only be rented to guests in need of housing, not for vacation purposes.
“The problem is, currently short-term rental owners aren’t necessarily obtaining any documentation to verify the actual housing need,” said Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop, during the meeting. “We’ve run into a case just this past weekend where that has occurred, so this [amendment] would squarely place the onus on the owner of the property to ensure that the person who’s renting does, in fact, have a housing need.”
When questioned what would constitute a valid form of verification, Redekop said: “Any type of documentation. It doesn’t have to be a specific type of document, but it has to be something that would satisfy the owner that, in fact, this is a housing need.” He used the example of a home being fumigated for bed bugs, saying that if the guest produced the contract for the fumigation, that would be a valid form of verification.
Under the new amendment, if bylaw officers find the short-term rental owner failed to obtain valid verification of a need for housing, the owner will receive five demerit points and a $300 administrative penalty.
The demerit points are part of a one-year pilot project Fort Erie has implemented, requiring rental owners to obtain a short-term rental licence. It costs $300 and was introduced to hold short-term rental owners accountable to town bylaws.
Bylaw enforcement award demerit points if a short-term rental is not in accordance with the town’s regulations. A demerit point remains in place for two years. If an owner receives seven demerit points, they must meet with the Appeals Committee to identify what steps they intend to take to prevent future incidents. If the owner receives 15 or more demerit points, they must meet with the Appeals Committee to determine if their short-term rental licence will be revoked.
Town staff are monitoring the pilot project and will report back to council at the end of 2021 to determine whether Fort Erie wants to make the licensing permanent.
The new amendment will help augment the current licensing project when it comes to monitoring Fort Erie’s short-term rentals.
“This is an extra tool that will assist [bylaw] and will assist us in making sure that the short-term rentals comply with our bylaws,” Redekop said.