Fort Erie, Ont., is the latest place dealing with problem rental cottages. The community has had an increase in complaints about noise and trespassing, particularly in Crystal Beach, a popular vacation property area. “We understand that people are renting their places out for additional income, and the vast majority are doing it responsibly,” Wayne Redekop, the town’s mayor says. “But some are doing it with very little control and very little monitoring, and these are the ones we need to focus on.”
Recently, town staff prepared a report on creating a licensing and penalty system for short-term rentals and presented the plan at a council meeting in September. According to the proposal, cottage owners applying for a licence would be required to provide detailed information: “ownership, 24-hour Responsible Person contact information, Parking Management Plans, Property Management Plans, and more.” Infractions, in response to an inspection or a neighbour complaint, would get you demerit points and a fine; earn enough demerit points and your licence would be cancelled.
The municipal council voted, however, not to implement the proposed system. The problem, says the mayor, is the significant cost of hiring new staff to manage and enforce the system and for an educational program—posters, ads, a postcard mail-out. (The report estimated the total expenditure for 2019 at nearly $300,000, while projecting revenues from fees at only $17,600.) “We need to have a more focussed approach, without breaking the bank,” Redekop says. Instead, the council asked staff to consult with the public and to report back in November with alternatives. In addition, council voted to increase bylaw enforcement staffing during off-hours.
Meanwhile, some other municipalities have already regulated short-term rentals. Nelson, B.C., and Wasaga Beach and Whitestone in Ontario have licensing systems in place. Highlands East in Haliburton County, Ont., is implementing a bylaw that requires 14 submissions from applicants, including proof of insurance, proof of WETT certification, and a “Renter’s Code,” a document for renters that sets out rules and responsibilities and informs them of the bylaws they must follow. The bylaw also limits the number of rental properties allowed to one per owner per lake, a measure designed to stop someone from setting up a rental business with several lakefront cottages on the same lake.
The municipality of Kawartha Lakes, though, decided in August that instead of creating a licensing system, it will to continue to monitor the short-term rental situation. It has also amended several of its bylaws to improve response and tracking of complaints by police.