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Aug. 19, 2019 | Monday
Local News
Town working to decrease unlawful short term rentals
A bed and breakfast sign in town. (Jer Houghton/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake town council is considering cracking down on illegal short-term rentals and making sure owners have proper licences.

Currently two properties in Garrison Village are being investigated by bylaw enforcement to ensure they have the proper licensing, council heard last Monday. 

A motion was brought forward by Coun. Wendy Cheropita and seconded by Coun. Norm Arsenault to terminate the licenses of the two properties, which are registered as cottage rentals and not villa rentals.

Depending on the number of rooms being rented, the owners could be in violation of short-term rental bylaws.

A short-term rental is like a bed-and-breakfast and is only allowed to have three rooms before it meets the definition of a country-inn or villa.

Any country-inn or villa must apply for a license prior to consideration as a permitted use in a residential zone, according to town procedures.

Cheropita said illegal rentals are a growing problem locally, and neighbours are complaining about excessive and unwanted traffic.

She said residents in the area have contacted council, and have kept a log and a document to show there are sometimes as many as 10 cars staying overnight.

Chief administration officer Holly Dowd said there is a process that must be followed before a short-term rental license can be revoked, and the two Garrison Village houses are currently being investigated.

Bylaw enforcement went out on Friday, she said.

“If there’s an issue we write a report to council to revoke the license.”

However Cheropita shared concerns from a previous inspection of the homes.

“I was aware that we sent an inspector to the homes in December, when the inspector went through there were only three bedrooms,” she said.

Arsenault requested a quick turnaround time on a decision. It’s “been going on for substantive amount of time,” he said.

Dowd said the process is already underway, though it can’t be rushed and must be done according to proper procedures.

“We usually work with the people. They need to understand there are complaints, and if we can’t get anywhere then we bring them back here to revoke the license,” said Dowd.

An owner can’t appeal a revoked license, however after a report has been issued, the owner has the opportunity to speak to council about the report.

Coun. Gary Burroughs said he would prefer to see licences revoked upon violation of the bylaw, and asked for an amendment to the motion, which was carried.

Coun. Clare Cameron disagreed with the motion, saying she believes in following and enforcing the procedures that are already in place.

“I’m very uncomfortable circumventing a process in regards to this … we do have a process and I do not believe it’s the role of council to start embarking upon our own alternate bylaw enforcement process. I’d like to see the process in play,” she said.

Coun. Erwin Weins agreed with Cameron about making sure to follow policies already in place.

“Process is important and process is what our constitution is based on,” he said.

“It is a big issue with this and we have to have faith in our staff to do a proper report and report back to us.”

The cost of a short-term rental licence is $112 per bedroom.