The town has put forward a tentative plan for licensing short-term rentals in Collingwood, and they want to hear from you before finalizing it.
During last week’s (May 15) committee of the whole meeting, councillors got a look at the draft licensing bylaw for short-term accommodation (STAs) units which, if adopted, would see the town handing out 200 licenses annually in Collingwood and operators facing requirements limiting the number of people who can stay and for how many days they can operate per year.
And if operators run afoul of the new rules, they could be facing hefty fines.
“I have yet to see any jurisdiction successfully deal with short-term accommodation,” said Mayor Yvonne Hamlin during the meeting. “I think it's a question of how much money as a municipality we want to put into enforcement. It's a bit like that game of whack-a-mole; you hit one down and another one pops up.”
“They're always looking to get around the rules,” she said.
Hamlin said she thinks the only way to prevent this is to have high fines in Collingwood for non-compliance.
“Let's say they rent it for 300 nights a year, that's $90,000. What's a $50 fine going to do? Or a $2,000 fine? It's the cost of doing business,” she said. “The fine should be a deterrent.”
Despite the current ban on STAs in Collingwood, the town says as of April 28, approximately 372 STAs were situated throughout the town. Included in this total are legal bed-and-breakfast businesses.
In February, council voted unanimously in favour of moving ahead to have staff investigate a principal-residence approach for short-term rentals in Collingwood. A principal-residence approach refers to permitting STAs as a home-based business within principal residences and in accessory units where the property owner occupies the principal residence on the same lot under a licensing framework.
As part of staff’s research to come up with a new licensing framework, several municipal frameworks were researched, including the Town of the Blue Mountains, Tiny, Penetanguishene, Ramara, Lake of Bays, Huntsville, Kingston, Ottawa and North Bay.
Under the new framework, all STAs (including currently legal bed-and-breakfast establishments) must apply for an annual license.
The town will only be handing out 200 licenses annually town-wide. Only one license will be given annually per property.
Costs for licenses would be split into three different types: a guest room short-term rental/partial unit rental would be $250 annually, an entire unit principal residence would be $500 and an entire unit accessory dwelling unit would be $750. For both entire-unit options, the property could only be rented out for a maximum of 180 days per year. Owners must apply and pay for a license annually.
In order to apply for a license, owners would have to provide their name, contact information, a detailed site/floor plan and payment. A copy of the current licence must be posted on-site, and the license number must be provided in all advertisements for the property. The owner must provide proof to the town that the property is the owner’s principal residence. They must also submit to an inspection to show compliance with the bylaw, Ontario Building Code and fire codes.
The contact information for a “responsible person” must also be identified to the town if the owner is not able to attend the unit within 60 minutes. This person must be able to attend the residence within 60 minutes if there is an issue on-site.
The town will also have rules regarding the number of people who can rent an STA at one time. A maximum of two guests are permitted per guest room. A maximum of eight guests and four guest rooms per rental will also be enforced. All guests must sign a renter’s code of conduct and owners will be responsible for ensuring guest compliance.
If owners do not comply, there will be penalties for non-compliance which include a demerit point system, fines, licence suspension or revocation, and other enforcement measures. Amanda Fone, licensing and compliance officer with the town, said during the meeting that fines will be determined based on public consultation.
“The overall aim of the...framework is to encourage STAs to peacefully co-exist within Collingwood’s neighbourhoods while protecting the long-term rental/housing supply, ensuring health and safety for hosts and guests, encouraging compliance with requirements and maintaining the benefits that STAs bring to residents in the community,” she noted in her report.
Implementing the system will require the hiring of new staff, Fone told councillors. To start, staff are estimating three new positions: a full-time administrator, a full-time bylaw enforcement officer, and a part-time fire inspector, should the system be implemented only during business hours. If the hours of operation are expanded, two more bylaw enforcement officers could also be required.
Under this model, the estimated project costs would be $215,000 in the first year, and $155,000 in the second year.
If council supports moving forward with a municipal accommodation tax, Fone noted a portion of that revenue could be allocated to offset the cost of the licensing program.
Coun. Chris Potts asked if residents surrounding a short-term rental property could be consulted when the town is determining whether to grant a license renewal.
“You may, one year, have a really great experience or you have some new residents come in and it was a bad experience,” he said.
Coun. Brandon Houston asked if the existing legal bed-and-breakfasts that are operating in town could be given preference for licenses.
“I'd rather that we didn't have to deal with this but it's not going away...it's something that we have to learn to live with,” said Coun. Steve Perry, noting he’d like to see more information on limiting clustering of STAs in neighbourhoods.
“I think this is a great initiative and it's more the devil you know than the devil you don't know.”
Coun. Rob Ring said he’d like to see harsher penalties for owners operating STAs illegally.
“We know that there are 350 illegal STAs running within the boundaries of Collingwood and we're going to put a cap at 200,” said Ring. “The main reason for the licensing is to have some type of control.”
Coun. Deb Doherty asked if townhouses and condominiums could be added to the list of eligible properties.
“Sometimes the revenue that can come in through rental of those smaller properties can be even more valuable to the owner,” she said, adding she’d also like to see the registration fees increased.
“This is not recoverable right now and I just I don't think that all of our community of taxpayers should have to foot the bill so that a minority get to make extra money,” said Doherty.
The committee voted unanimously in favour of giving preliminary approval for the draft short-term accommodation licensing bylaw and framework. The decision will need to be ratified at the next regular meeting of council.
Once approved, the town will proceed to public consultation on the framework, with plans to incorporate community feedback and present a final version to council for approval in the fall of 2023.
To access the full draft bylaw, click here.
The town will release details for public feedback options soon.