Kawartha Lakes asking for public input on short-term rentals

By Kirk Winter

"Hotels and motels do not belong in residential areas.”

During last fall’s municipal election two issues dominated the campaign: roads and short-term rentals (STRs). Virtually every candidate in all eight wards addressed both issues with most promising improved roads and some kind of restriction and regulations that will hopefully answer some of the concerns that have been heard at council since STRs became a real issue post-2018.

Council has made a significant commitment to road spending with millions set aside in the proposed 2023 capital budget to be used for repair and resurfacing. On the issue of short term rentals, the city has begun their investigation by posting a comprehensive survey on the Kawartha Lakes Jump In platform where they are soliciting opinions from people across the city.

The survey, which closes Feb. 15, will be an opportunity for individuals who oppose or people who support STRs to be heard. The data gleaned from this survey will be instrumental for the By-Law Enforcement department who has been tasked with bringing recommendations to council, likely sometime in the spring.

Short term rentals are defined as any property rented out to the same individual for 30 days or less. These are the kinds of properties typically found on rental sites like Vrbo or Air BnB. Many of these properties are located on waterfront and are part of well-established cottage owning communities throughout the city.

Those who support STRs suggest that it is a great way for current cottage owners to earn a little bit of additional income to pay for taxes and upkeep on their resort property when they are not available to utilize it. Other suggest that short term rentals allow individuals who cannot afford the typical cottage for a variety of reasons access to often prime waterfront for a week or two. Supporters make the argument that while they are at that cottage there is the potential that the renters will visit locals stores to fill their fridge and buy souvenirs and the closest marina to gas up their boat. Most opponents of STRs accept that there is at least some economic spin-off stimulated by STRs, but that this benefit is more than offset by the annoyance that the STRs cause for their permanent neighbours most every weekend.

On Tuesday January 31, council accepted an online petition posted on the city Jump In site by Liba R. Ms. R. lives on O’Reilly Lane in Little Britain and wants council to know what a nightmare STRs have become for the people living in her residential neighbourhood.

“This petition is to help all our families in a single-family zoned neighbourhood feel safe again…” Ms. R. began. “In the last few years, we have noticed increased car traffic and (strangers) in our neighbourhood. Every weekend in the summer groups of 50-100 people move in and out of (STRs). We used to look forward to weekends to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the lake. All this has changed and weekends now bring stress and anxiety.”

 “We don’t know who will be next door and whether we will need to endure noise and people staring at our houses and property,” Ms. R said. “Single family homes that previously were accommodating single families are converted into multi-bedroom accommodations without any consideration to the existing septic systems and the extra strain put on it and (community) water supplies. We have noticed that most of the renters that rent for a weekend come to have a great time and leave. They bring their own foods, drinks and sometimes wood for burning. They are not concerned about their neighbours or the neighbourhood.”

Ms. R. accuses renters staying at STRs of trespassing, taking watercraft that do not belong to them, burning garbage in firepits and in general “having very little respect and consideration for the area.”

Ms. R. asks the city not to allow short term rentals in residentially zoned neighbourhoods. She points out that by-laws are already enacted in the Collingwood/Blue Mountain area that permits STRs in areas zoned “Tourist Commercial” and “Tourist Accommodation” only.

“Let us come together as a community to do what is best for our families that will start a change that will allow us to feel safe and confident in our neighbourhoods,” Ms. R. says. “(We need) to stop transient rentals where they don’t belong. Hotels and motels do not belong in residential areas.”

For many years there have been multiple petitions, deputations and letters to council by people who have had similar experiences to Ms. R. and it now appears that council is prepared to act.

In the Jump In survey that closes in mid-February, an information box tells users that council voted against any attempt to regulate and license STRs in 2018, but with the increase in short-term rentals on the market since then “the problems have increased and regulation is now required.”

The survey asks users how they feel about STRs being licensed, having yearly inspections, having proof of business insurance, being taxed as businesses, and being subject to enforcement and fines if found wanting.

The city also wants opinions about the thorny question of whether short term rental owners need to be present on the property fulltime to likely police their renters when neighbours begin to complain. Virtually all complaints to council since 2016 have detailed that the worst of the STRs have absentee landlords who rely on a lock box and a local person to clean and manage the property.

The survey wants opinions on who should pay the cost of this potential new layer of city regulation, and one of the options proposed is short term rental owners themselves.

In another information box the city shares with users that London, Sarnia, Toronto, Sudbury, Prince Edward County, Kenora and Huntsville have already implemented a 4 per cent “municipal accommodation tax” on all STRs under their jurisdiction. The survey asked users if they would be supportive of a tax like this with all proceeds going to support tourism development in Kawartha Lakes.

One Kawartha Lakes insider has told the Advocate that the goal is to have data collated, recommendations made and new by-laws in place before the May 24 long weekend.


  1. Wallace says:

    Short Term Renters AKA Partyers Who Don’t Care About Anyone But Themselves

  2. Tatia says:

    It would have been nice if you included the link to the survey.

  3. Avatar photo Roderick Benns says:

    That’s a fair comment…we should have added the link. It has now been added in the third paragraph. Thanks!

  4. Tracey Hill says:

    Is there a new petition to stop air bnb and in kawartha lakes?
    Washburn island is a terrible place here for us that live here.

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