Lake of Bays tackles short-term rental issues with $116K licensing program, bylaw changes

·3 min read

The Lake of Bays township is making significant moves to regulate short-term rentals in the municipality, including bylaws changes and a licensing program that could cost $116,000 to operate every year.

Council voted unanimously in favour of new regulations for short-term rentals (STRs) during its April 6 meeting.

The township has spent over two years seeking solutions for complaints from some residents in relation to short-term renters, such as late-night partying, off-leash pets and pressure on the septic systems. A report published last August found 61 per cent of respondents are concerned about noise, garbage and occupancy numbers.

Their two-pronged approach, outlined in a report from planner April Best-Sararas, states the township will amend its development permit and comprehensive zoning bylaws and launch a short-term rental licensing program.

“I believe we’ve got a clear direction for staff to go in,” said Mayor Terry Glover following the vote. “We’re certainly on the STR hamster wheel now.”

The bylaw changes would regulate unit’s locations, allowed building types and parking rules. The licensing program would establish visitors rules through a Renter’s Code of Conduct — including how many people can be in a unit and when they can make noise — and would require applicants to pay several hundred dollars for a licence.

Depending on the unit ‘class’ applicants could pay $250, $500 or $750 to apply. Licence renewal, administration and penalty costs, also in the hundreds, would also apply.

According to the report’s estimates, running the licensing program could cost $116,000 annually, including $80,000 to pay a contract co-ordinator to handle registration and unit inspections.

In the program’s first year, staff estimate the program could make up to $62,500 from licensing 125 units maximum: the loss, that year, would be $53,500, but losses would decrease subsequent years as renewal fee payments come in.

Dawn Mildred, a Lake of Bays resident, has rented part of her cottage to visitors for over 30 years.

In a letter she submitted to the township, Mildren addressed the Transient Accommodation Tax, or Hotel Tax: the report states the township may implement this tax for all transient accommodations, both short and long-term rentals. The tax would total 4 per cent of the accommodation’s purchase price. Mildren said the tax should only apply to short-term rentals.

“Someone who rented for 28 days or more would think that they were being penalized, in the future, if they had to pay an additional 4 per cent tax,” she said during her deputation to council.

“There’s a lot of towns in cottage country that are dealing with this problem,” Glover said early in the meeting. “It’s going to take a lot of tweaking to come at this correctly.”

Lake of Bays staff will develop the licensing program and suggest changes for the bylaws to come before council in the future.

Story Behind The Story: The controversy surrounding short-term rentals was inflamed last year during the summer months. Our reporter wanted to highlight how the changes could bring peace and quiet to Lake of Bays during summer months, but also, how it could financially impact residents who host out-of-town visitors.

Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Zahraa Hmod, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com