Real Estate

Appellants say Tiny Township’s STR rules insufficient for addressing ‘ghost hotels’

parking enforcement Photo by Franco Francisco Maria/Shutterstock

Community members in Tiny are pushing back against the township’s new short-term rentals regulations. Two separate appeals have been filed with the Ontario Land Tribunal over the new zoning bylaw changes that were approved by the township in October to assist with the new short-term rental regulations. The changes include a definition for short-term rentals, parking standards for rental units, and a ban on renting out accessory structures such as bunkies.

The appeals were filed by Good Neighbours Tiny, a group promoting “family-oriented residential neighbourhoods”, and the so-called Tiny Township Association of responsible short-term rental owners. 

“When you have both sides appealing the regulation, in this case, the zoning bylaw, it likely means that you didn’t do your job well and you failed to bring forth the regulation that actually fulfills its purpose and intention,” says Jelena Vuckovic, of the Tiny Township Association of Responsible Short-Term Rental Owners.

Jelena Vuckovic and her family during Christmas at their cottage in Tiny. Photo courtesy of Jelena Vuckovic

Vuckovic has owned a property in Tiny since 2020 and has been renting it out periodically to earn supplemental income. “We are just trying to stay afloat in this economy, put our kids through school, and make financial decisions that make sense for us now and when we retire,” she says. 

Vuckovic would like to see Tiny strengthen its current bylaw enforcement to bring problem rentals under control. “I think most of the complaints and issues can effectively be resolved by implementing and enforcing the existing regulations already at the Township’s disposal such as noise bylaws and building and fire codes,” she says.

Debbie Galbo and Jennifer Hierholzer of Good Neighbours Tiny also filed an appeal against the township’s new zoning regulation. They are neighbours in Tiny and both live next to a rental property which they say has housed many large and noisy groups over the last year. “It’s been a nightmare,” says Galbo. They’ve had to deal with garbage and parked cars filling up the street, and countless noise disturbances. 

Good Neighbours Tiny would also like to see the township strengthen bylaw enforcement. They would like to see bylaw officers accessible on evenings and weekends, to better deal with excessive disturbances. “We can tell you we don’t need bylaw on Tuesday at noon,” says Hierholzer. “Generally the bylaws are not being broken during the day, it’s in the middle of the night.”

Shawn Persaud, the director of planning and development at Tiny, says the new zoning bylaw doesn’t permit tourist establishments in residential areas, but it does codify where short-term rentals are permitted. “Basically, they’re permitted in all residential areas,” he says. This is something Galbo and Hierholzer would like to see changed. As they see it, there should be a separate classification and ban on short-term rentals being operated as so-called “ghost hotels” which they define as properties owned and operated for the sole purpose of short-term renting. “They should have had clear definitions of the ‘ghost hotels’ so they can shut them down immediately,” says Hierholzer.

Persaud says short-term rentals were legal before the bylaw, but the changes introduced by the Township are a move to regulate the industry. “Our interpretation is short-term rentals have always been permitted in Tiny Township,” says Persaud. “However, we needed to regulate it because it was getting out of hand as far as the number, as well as the duration of use and that, was really creating a negative impact.” 

Vuckovic also says that “ghost hotels” are an issue in Tiny, but she says the vast majority of rental owners she’s talked to are part-time renters like herself. She acknowledges the new short-term rental regulations don’t account for the differences between the two groups. While the bylaw prohibits corporations from owning short-term rentals in Tiny, Vuckovic says nothing prevents individuals from operating ‘ghost hotels’.

Vuckovic says she supports the idea of a short-term licensing system but says costs related to the new licensing regime, including a $1,500 fee as well as costs for electrical, HVAC, and wood-burning appliance inspections, will push small-time rental operators like herself out of the market. “Instead of driving out illegal ‘ghost hotels’, it will drive out families like mine,” she says.

Current deputy mayor and councillor-elect Steffen Walma says the township believes in its current short-term rental regulations, but the appeals will be weighed through the judicial system. “People have the ability to challenge laws/bylaws at any level of government,” he said. “The township believes what we have done is fair, in the best interest of the community, and procedurally correct.” 

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