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May. 25, 2022 | Wednesday
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Town may revoke 56 bed and breakfast licences
56 bed and breakfast properties may lose their short-term rental licenses if approved by council. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

About one third of Niagara-on-the-Lake bed and breakfast owners could lose their licences for failing to renew and pay for their permits as well as for having an expired certificate of insurance.

NOTL’s committee of the whole voted to revoke 56 short-term rental licences during its Monday meeting.

According to the town’s 2018 report, there are 153 bed and breakfasts in town.

Coun. Gary Burroughs asked what efforts were made to contact the owners.

“I just hope we’re not hurting somebody’s livelihood,” he said.

Chief Administrative Officer Holly Dowd said annual payments for short-term rental permits must be received by the end of December each year and the owners were notified multiple times through emails and phone calls.

“If they don’t respond to us, you can only phone and send… I don’t know how many times you’d like us to do it,” she said.

Burroughs said he would like to make “human contact” as the town doesn’t “do that a lot anymore.”

Coun. Allan Bisback, who used to operate a bed and breakfast business, asked how many properties on the list were repeat offenders as it wasn’t fair to those who are licensed.

“Do we go year after year after year after someone who doesn’t pay and only when they show up on the list or on the paper... do they finally come up and pay?” said Bisback. “Because if they don’t pay, that’s not very fair to folks who are licensed and are following the rules. That means they’re purporting themselves in a public domain being a licensed establishment in this town.”

“If you’re licensed, I see it as a privilege, not a right,” said Bisback. “I see no issue revoking licences as long as we’re very sure that we’ve done the mail and the contact.”

This year, the number of operators owing money is up significantly compared to previous years, said town clerk Peter Todd.

“The last couple of years I don’t believe we’ve had any be revoked because they saw their name on the list, they came in and paid,” he said. 

Short-term rental licences are valid for four years and the insurance coverage should be a minimum of $2 million. Bed and breakfast operators can reapply for their licences within a year and that would be considered a renewal. The entire application process takes four to six weeks.

Coun. John Wiens said operators need to “sign up and pay.”

“I don’t know how far we can hold their hand,” he said.

Coun. Norm Arsenault agreed with Wiens, saying knocking on doors was “absurd” and it would set a precedent.

“These businesses have to take responsibility,” he said. “If this is your livelihood, then step up.”

In a report to the town’s corporate services advisory committee, staff said the listed properties will be monitored to ensure they don’t operate without a licence. Violations can result in a $500 fine per occurrence.

The committee approved the report with only Burroughs voting against it. 

The final decision will be made by council March 11.


Correction: This article was edited to change the number of bed and breakfasts in town from 145 to 153.