Townships in tourist areas often receive complaints that cottage renters are partying, causing noise and garbage violations.
As short-term renters, they do not have a vested interest in the neighbourhood, which can lead to clashes with long-term residents.
With last year’s Blue Mountain decision at the Ontario Municipal Board (Sheldon Rosen and The Lodges at Blue Mountain Corporation, June 22, 2011) townships now have more clearly defined legal authority to prohibit these types of rentals and avoid the partying complaints.
Townships outline permitted property uses in their official plan and zoning bylaw.
Typically, homes and cottages cannot be used for non-owner occupied commercial rentals unless the land is zoned for commercial use.
Property owners can continue to lease their home or cottage on a monthly or annual basis as a residential dwelling, but some townships now consider weekly cottage rentals or “short term accommodations” (STA) a commercial use and therefore a zoning bylaw violation.
The Blue Mountain decision laid out the distinction between residential in contrast to commercial use of non-owner occupied residences.
The township was found to have acted legitimately and within its authority when prohibiting rentals as commercial usage based on the length of time for which a dwelling is rented.
The township’s bylaw defined STAs as rentals of less than thirty days.
Although the Township of McDougall has already begun issuing notices of bylaw infractions to property owners engaging in STAs, a complete ban may not be the best solution for Muskoka.
Cottage renters bring significant economic benefits to a variety of local businesses that rely on summer tourism.
A better solution for would be to use legal authority to regulate rather than prohibit STAs.
A system of permits could be established, or property owners could be required to provide renters with a contract containing particular terms that outline the town’s expectations with regard to noise and other issues that are likely to produce tension.
This regulation would also provide a means to gather statistics and track the economic impact of STAs.
For towns that do decide to proceed with prohibiting or controlling STAs, an appropriate notice period should be given to property owners to complete any outstanding rental contracts.
These contracts are often signed months in advance and owners are bound to provide the accommodations as promised or risk legal action from disappointed guests.
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(Cara Valiquette is a lawyer at Oldham & Valiquette Law Group, Bracebridge)