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May. 17, 2021 | Monday
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Town has issued three COVID enforcement tickets in April
File photo/Town hall

Some Airbnbs accepting reservations despite lockdown

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has given out three COVID-related tickets in April, the "busiest month" since last spring for enforcement, says the town's chief administrative officer Marnie Cluckie.

During a COVID-19 update at council's committee of the whole Monday, she said so far in April the town has received 214 inquiries related to COVID and non-compliance, with 48 inspections that were based on complaints.

She said the town has also had "118 opportunities for education."

The increase in enforcement is something the town "often" sees when the province amends COVID regulations, she said.

Last weekend, "there was some frustration in the community. Enforcement staff are understanding of this and they're doing their very best to do the same as what the police said, which is 'engage, explain, educate and enforce.' "

She didn't say what the tickets were issued for, but that the town has "seen some isolated issues with some short-term rental operators."

The bylaw department is "addressing that as well, making sure that they're compliant with the regulations."

Research by The Lake Report on April 12 found that many Airbnb rentals in Niagara were still accepting reservations during lockdown.

Out of 10 hosts contacted regarding availability from April 16 to 18, two hosts, who together run five properties in town, said they would accept bookings.

One of the hosts, Jessie, who runs three properties, including a home at 475 Victoria St., suggested that while it's illegal, there "shouldn't be any issue" as long as neighbours don't complain.

"If you guys could keep quiet outside, then it shouldn’t be any issue," she said. "Staying inside the house will be no problem."

She still offered the rental after saying there would be visitors during the day.

Another host, who operates two properties, said it's "up to the renter" if they fit the criteria of needing housing. The regulations for short-term rentals only allow them for people with a legitimate housing need — not a vacation.

However, the host still said in a message the house was available after being told it was not a legitimate housing need.

"It is up to the renter if they fit the criteria. I can’t answer that for you. If you do then you're welcome to book."

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