TLTI ponders next steps on short-term rentals

June 11, 2023

A report to council recommends that further action can be taken, through bylaw enforcement and education, to address short-term rentals in the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands.

The report also recommends that the existing bylaws be amended to provide a greater measure for repeat offences, that the township provide a consolidated source of information regarding short-term rentals in addition to the existing bylaw guide, and that staff continue to monitor the number of complaints received by the township regarding short-term rentals and report back to council in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Through this process, council can monitor the situation and determine if staff should proceed with a licensing bylaw.

TLTI conducted a survey from July 18 to Sept. 12, 2022, to get community input regarding short-term rentals. A total of 496 responses were received.

Most respondents were permanent residents of the township (66.05 per cent) and were aware of short-term rentals (77.96 per cent) operating in the township. In response to whether they have ever contacted the township, bylaw officer, fire department or the police to register a complaint about a short-term rental, 92.65 per cent indicated that they have not. The main negative impacts identified by respondents were party houses, noise and fireworks.

Respondents noted the positive effect of short-term rentals on tourism, the local economy and economic development. Negative impacts identified included noise, loud parties, guests not respecting property rules or neighbours and violation of noise and fire bylaws.

When asked if the township should regulate short-term rentals, of 484 respondents, 265 (54.75 per cent) indicated yes and 219 (45.25 per cent) indicated no.

The concerns about short-term rentals that the township has received have been regarding noise, over-occupancy of structures and capacity of septic systems, unregulated bonfires and dogs being off property, council heard.

In July 2022, council approved an administrative monetary penalty (AMP) bylaw for the township. Updates to the Safe Properties, Property Standards, Canine Control and Noise Bylaws were also approved to allow their enforcement through AMP fines. Prior to the enactment of the AMP bylaw, enforcement staff were required to issue provincial offenses notices which required court appearances, and were lengthy and costly to enforce.

Based on a review of other municipalities' approaches to regulating short-term rentals, it was noted that licensing bylaws allow for greater regulations and requirements to a property than zoning. In addition to licensing, many municipalities are also relying on enforcement through fines to regulate behaviour and penalize property owners for non-compliance. The challenge is that staff are not able to enforce on a property if the concerns are not reported to the township.

The planning and development and fire departments have received fewer than five complaints regarding short-term rentals over the last two years.

Through the AMP bylaw, there may be some cost recovery of bylaw enforcement expenses, however, council heard the amount is dependent on the number of fines issued and the amount of time spent investigating complaints.

With respect to licensing, the associated costs vary. The cost of a license varies and is established by each municipality. The Township of Tiny charges an annual fee of $1,500. The annual fees in Prince Edward County are $200/guest room for a primary residence (owner occupied) and $325/guest room for a whole home short-term rental. The Town of Gananoque charges $130 plus $50/guest room annually. The City of Kingston charges $185.40 annually for a short-term rental license.

The Township of Georgian Bay is also currently in the process of implementing licensing for short-term rentals. With a population of 3,441, over 200 short-term rentals were identified in the township through the host compliance company.

If TLTI council determines that staff should proceed with a licensing bylaw for short-term rentals, it is recommended that staff consult further with third-party compliance providers to determine projected costs. As noted in the costs identified by the Township of Tiny, there will be additional resourcing costs at the township level to implement and administer a licensing program. It is not known what the allocated costs would be at this time, however, there would be an impact to the building, planning, bylaw enforcement and emergency services budgets due to administration, review and inspection that would likely not be fully recovered through licensing fees.

(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)