Real Estate

Township of Muskoka Lakes, Ont., to hold public meeting about proposed short-term rental bylaw

Row of Muskoka chairs on a dock looking onto the lake. short-term rental Photo by Adam Melnyk/Shutterstock

Those with a vested interest in short-term rentals (STR) in the Township of Muskoka Lakes, Ont., may want to clear their calendars on February 13.

Council announced that the Township of Muskoka Lakes planning committee will hold a public meeting on February 13 at 9 a.m. to receive community feedback on a proposed STR licensing bylaw. The meeting will be held in the municipal office’s council chambers in Port Carling, Ont., or those interested can also attend online via Zoom.

The Township of Muskoka Lakes, which encompasses popular cottaging destinations such as Lake Rosseau and parts of Lake Muskoka, has seen its STR population multiply over the last several years. Municipal staff estimate that there are now over 800 STRs in the area. While these vacation properties provide a boon for the local economy, they bring complications, including noise complaints, overcrowding, loss of community character, unsafe boating, among other issues.

That’s why the township spent 2023 working out a way for STRs to operate responsibly in the municipality. This included releasing a survey to the public last summer that received nearly 500 responses. Of those respondents, 70 per cent felt the township needed to introduce regulations around STRs.

In response to the survey and discussions among council, township staff released a draft STR bylaw on October 12, 2023. According to the draft, STRs in Muskoka Lakes will be regulated through a licensing system. All STR operators will have to purchase a license from the township, costing $1,000, plus a $500 inspection fee to ensure the STR is up to the township’s code of conduct. The license is valid for two years. Renewing the license will cost $500, or $750 if the operator has made major changes to their property.

The draft bylaw also specifies that a property can only host a maximum of two guests per bedroom (this doesn’t include children under 12). However, the max occupancy could be less depending on the limits of the property’s septic system. Each property will be assessed individually.

Township staff did ask the public in the survey about a minimum number of nights guests must book. Forty-one per cent of respondents who operate an STR said they require guests to book for at least seven nights, while 33 per cent required a two-night minimum. Despite these answers, staff did not include any minimum stay limits in the draft bylaw.

If an STR operator breaks the bylaw, the township said in the draft that it will dole out fines—up to a maximum of $100,000 under the Municipal Act. The township will also distribute demerit points for things such as violating the building code, operating a rental without a permit, and renting out an inappropriate property, such as community housing or a docked boat, among other violations. Operators who receive 10 demerit points will have to submit a plan to the township outlining how they’ll avoid further demerits. And an operator who receives 15 demerit points will have their license suspended. Demerit points stay in effect for three years.

The planning committee is also asking the public to submit comments to bylaw@muskokalakes.ca. Comments on the draft will be accepted until February 26.

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