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Apr. 16, 2021 | Friday
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Most NOTL Airbnbs followed lockdown rules, survey finds
File photo/Rene Bertschi

Vicky Qiao
Special to The Lake Report

Almost all NOTL short-term rentals listed on Airbnb followed the rules when pandemic regulations barred them from opening over most of the past three months, a Lake Report survey shows.

After Ontario entered a provincial shutdown on Dec. 26, short-term rentals, including Airbnbs, could no longer be booked for recreational purposes.

According to the provincial guidelines, reservations made after Nov. 22 were not permitted except for urgent housing needs. 

As a popular weekend getaway destination, Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to many rentals promoted on the Airbnb platform. 

A reporter from The Lake Report, posing as a potential renter, reached out to operators via airbnb.ca to see if the hosts were following the rules. 

Only two of 20 properties contacted were in apparent contravention of the rules.

Many rentals listed on the website were open for booking, but most hosts said that they could only approve the reservation if the region moved out of the grey lockdown zone. That designation was in place until March 2. 

“We’re not sure what announcements will be made and if we will be allowed to operate, but many of our guests are holding the dates then cancelling if we cannot,” said Erica, the co-host of a Niagara Vineyard two-bedroom rental.

The cancellation policy on the website allows users to cancel reservations for free within a certain period of time, which means they can still book and cancel later for free.

“It is probably best to wait until the situation is clearer. Cancelation, although possible, is a hassle,” said Ken, the host of Green Gables in Old Town NOTL.

“Hopefully there’s clearer information soon. I can’t host during a lockdown as I get my licence taken away and you possibly could get fined as well.”

The host of Cottage by the Marina, located at 114 Lockhart St., also decided to hold off bookings until March. 

“Unfortunately, I am not able to accommodate you due to Covid 19!” said Viorica. 

However, not every rental on airbnb.ca seemed to be following the restrictions.

Out of the 20 we contacted, two were accepting bookings for the weekend of Feb. 26. 

An Airbnb host identified as Suneet said, “The entire house is available” for booking the week. It had already been booked for Saturday, Feb. 27. 

"Pc," the co-host of a vineyard estate near the Wayne Gretzky winery property, said they “would love to host” for a weekend stay.

The host of Vistula Bed and Breakfast, at 672 King St., also said the rental was in operation and available for booking, but only for an "emergency." 

When asked about safety measures, she responded that “tourist stay is forbidden but if it (is) emergency or necessity you can book. For details you can go to NOTL city hall.”

Rental hosts also were aware that some of their competitors were secretly operating.

“I believe some hosts are still doing this but can be fined and lose licence ... The restrictions should be lifted after March 2,” said Kristina, the host of Southampton House.

Another concern comes from the guest reviews of NOTL airbnbs listed on the website, which feature reviews posted during the lockdown period.

The house hosted by Suneet, for instance, has two reviews posted in February and five in January.

Although the review section does not say when people visited, it does raise the question whether some airbnbs might have been housing guests during the shutdown. 

Many hosts were frustrated and anxious for reopening. 

“We are so upset. Despite having low numbers, our region is staying in grey and unable to accept reservations at this time,” said Erin, the host of a bungalow in NOTL.

 

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