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Sunday, January 29, 2023
Letter to the editor: Is the town actually enforcing rental bylaws?


Dear Editor,

My name is Alison Hepburn and I live in the Old Town. My husband and I have a number of concerns with regards to the short-term rentals in Niagara-on-the-Lake. By short term rentals I mean bed and breakfasts, cottage rentals, villas, country inns and Airbnbs.

What got us really thinking about this was the article in the March 7 edition of the Lake Report about the town possibly revoking B&B licences. We live in a part of Old Town that is dominated by all of these types of short-term rentals as well as homes owned by what we call “weekenders.”

Out of curiosity I printed off the list of short-term rentals from the town website. I did some cross-referencing. I have found several discrepancies.

In no particular order:

The most obvious one was the number of rentals that you can find online that are not on the town’s list. There are several cottage rental websites; VRBO, Niagara Vacation Rentals, canadastays.com and of course Airbnb just to name a few.

There are a few places that are listed as B&B but don’t offer breakfast.

There seems to be some confusion between villas and cottage rentals. The town’s list goes by the number of bedrooms but the actual cottage is advertised as sleeping significantly more. For example a rental has three bedrooms but advertises that it sleeps up to 10 people because there are two fold out sofas; which also brings up questions with regards to fire safety, not to mention parking and noise.

According to the article there are 145 B&B’s in NOTL. The list of short term-rentals has over 300 rentals.

Do the other 150+ rentals not pay a licensing fee? Or perhaps they are all paid up?

The town doesn’t seem to be able to “police” the rentals they have on the list, so what about all of the ones flying under the licensing radar?

I would also be curious to know if they take the owners at their word about the type of property they have or do they actually go out and inspect? I know there is a country inn in my area that doesn’t have enough parking when all their rooms are booked. The by-law says that there should be one parking space for every room in the “house” plus parking for every car owned by the people living/working there. There are four rooms and the owner also has a car (up until recently two cars) and only four parking spots. I’m not sure how they managed to get the licence.

Alison Hepburn

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