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Nov. 26, 2020 | Thursday
Local News
Town moves to restrict short-term rentals
A large pile of garbage bags, but no recycling, outside the Campbell Scott house after a weekend rental. (Supplied)

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is hoping to limit short-term rentals to live-in operations only by 2024.

The move is one in a list of changes to the town's short-term rental licensing bylaw, designed to help tackle the issues caused by the increasing number of short-term rental houses in town.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said the goal of the bylaw amendments is to prevent hollowing out of the town to short-term rentals and to help combat what’s been called “party houses,” where people rent a house and hold loud parties, disturbing residents and leaving trash on the roads.

“The issue of more and more short-term rentals is hollowing out neighbourhoods, in terms of full-time occupants, which I think is is the wrong direction for the town — or any town — to be going,” Disero said in an interview.

“You want to keep well-balanced communities and also there needs to be some accountability and responsibility. If someone rents a holiday house and turns it into a party, there’s got to be some considerations for neighbours. So, for both of those reasons, I think we need to relook at the short-term rental rules and see if we can come to something that will be workable, but pleasurable for neighbourhoods.”

While the town finalizes new amendments to the bylaw, it has ordered a moratorium on short-term rental licences.

The moratorium, effective Oct. 23, is expected to be in effect until the changes to the bylaw are finalized, or unless a decision of council is made otherwise.

Town clerk Peter Todd said the moratorium suspends the issuance of all licences (new or renewal) until the fees and bylaw amendments are considered by council.

“This ensures all licences will be issued under the regulations of, and required to be in compliance with, the new regulations should there be any changes.”

Proposed changes to the bylaw include:

  • Transition short-term rentals to be operated from principal residences only (by Jan. 1, 2024).
  • Restrict short-term rentals from advertising without a license and add a requirement for advertisements to include the licence number.
  • Create requirements for property managers to respond within 30 minutes to complaints.
  • Introduce a Renter’s Code of Conduct and Good Neighbour agreements.
  • Require signage for short-term rentals, which includes the town’s customer service number.
  • Technical amendments for approval of fees (to be through annual user fees).
  • Introduction of a third-party compliance company to monitor rental advertisements, offer a 24/7 complaint line, offer support to enforcement of the licensing bylaw.
  • Suggest revisions toa  previously approved fee structure (decrease from proposed 2020 fees, increase from 2019 fees) to fund third-party compliance company.

Some homeowners and yearly visitors who use short-term rentals have expressed concerns about the proposed changes, saying they don’t think short-term rentals should have to be owner occupied.

Others have voiced strong concerns about the "hollowing out" of Niagara-on-the-Lake due to short-term rentals and about problems created by "party houses."

Vacation rental managers have continued to say that licensed houses aren't the problem when it comes to party rentals.

Currently, town statistics show NOTL has approximately 400 licensed short-term rental houses — about 5 per cent of the private dwellings in town, according to the 2016 census.

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