Majority of polled residents want short-term rentals to be licensed and regulated

By Kirk Winter

For the last two months, Kawartha Lakes senior staff have been polling local citizens regarding the need for a potential new by-law that will regulate the operation of short-term rentals (STRs) in the city.

For the last two months, Kawartha Lakes senior staff have been polling local citizens regarding the need for a potential new by-law that will regulate the operation of short-term rentals (STRs) in the city. Their survey, posted on the city’s Jump In site, received over 1,000 responses with more than 70 per cent of those who answered the poll calling for the municipality to regulate and license STRs in Kawartha Lakes.

At a public meeting held in Lindsay on Feb. 28, city staff rolled out a proposed new by-law to govern the operation of STRs that they hope to have in-place for May of 2023.

Staff believes there are as many as 800 STRs operating across the city charging an average of $310 a day based on their online searches of over 100 different booking websites commonly found on the internet.

For the sake of the bylaw, the city defines a short-term rental as a residential dwelling that offers a place of accommodation for fewer than 30 days. These proposed bylaw changes will not apply as written to hotels, cabin establishments, bed and breakfast establishments, tourist establishments, tourist cabin establishments or similar commercial accommodation uses.

The draft bylaw released Feb. 28 makes it clear that to operate in Kawartha Lakes as an STR these owner-operators are going to have to run their businesses in a more traditional manner, applying for permits, allowing inspections and taking more responsibility than they ever have before or risk losing their STR license and their operation potentially being closed.

To operate as an STR in the future, the draft by-law states clearly that “no person shall operate a STR unless the person holds a current STR accommodation license issued by the city.” All advertising done by the owner will have to prominently display the license number as part of their ad, so potential renters will know the operation has been inspected and has been deemed safe.

The proposed by-law is also going to limit the number of renters to two per bedroom “with each bedroom being identified and approved on the floorplans submitted with the application for a STR accommodation license.”

The draft bylaw makes clear that an STR will not be licensed by the city until the owner has filled out a substantial amount of paperwork. Forms include an application with a non-refundable application fee and a statutory declaration signed by the owner that they understand their responsibilities as a licensee under current city bylaws that regulate noise, open-air burning, waste and recycling, parking, animals, fireworks and property standards.

 Owners will have to supply the city a floor plan drawn to scale and fully dimensioned showing the location of all buildings and structures on the property, wells and septics, the use of each room, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers, all gas and electric appliances, wood burning fireplaces, exits, exterior decks and outdoor parking spaces. The proposed bylaw points out that “renters and guests are permitted no more cars than there are designated parking spaces in the parking area.”

Potential STR owners will also have to present a certificate of insurance which includes a liability limit of no less than $2 million. Such insurance must indicate that the property is operating as a short-term rental. STR applications will be asked to include proof of an electrical inspection done in the last five years, a Wood Energy Technical Transfer (WETT) report no older than five years old, an HVAC inspection if equipment is present and proof that all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors have been inspected.

The municipality, likely in response to dozens of survey complaints about absentee landlords who are not within a reasonable driving distance to deal with personal or structural emergencies at their properties, has stated clearly in the draft bylaw “that the name and contact information of a responsible person who can be readily contacted within 30 minutes and respond to an emergency on contravention of city bylaws, including attendance on premises within sixty minutes of being notified of the occurrence” needs to be made available to both the city and potential renters.

As part of the potential licensing process all STRs will have to provide approved portable fire extinguishers in any cooking area and on every floor of the building being rented. The owner will also be asked to maintain a guest register which indicates the renters’ and guests’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, number of renters and guests, length of stay and confirmation that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have been checked prior to the arrival of the renter. This guest registry must be provided to the city within 24 hours upon request.

All STRs will be inspected on a yearly basis if this bylaw is passed, with it being the responsibility of the owner to contact the city for inspection and ensure that all appropriate municipal and provincial bylaws and codes have been adhered to.

To ensure that this new bylaw, if approved, is being applied, “a licensing enforcement officer, municipal law enforcement officer, assistant to the fire marshal or building inspector may, at any time, enter onto the land to determine whether this bylaw is being complied with. Every owner shall permit (these individuals) to inspect any part of the premises for the purposes of  determining compliance with this bylaw.”

The proposed bylaw  creates a series of demerit point offences including  failure to maintain  and repair (2 demerit points), discharge of fireworks (1 demerit point), accumulation of debris (2 demerit points), allow or permit noise (1 demerit point), burning materials other than permitted (2 demerit points) and failure of property owner or designate to attend the property within time frame of a request from licensing officials (2 demerit points). This system could potentially see an owners license suspended for six months once they reached seven demerit points or taken away for two years once they reach 15 demerit points.

Aaron Sloan, manager of municipal bylaw enforcement and licensing for the city was contacted by the Advocate for further information about how this draft bylaw might be enforced. There were many questions that Sloan was unable to give definite answers to including how many new city employees would need to be hired to manage and enforce this proposed bylaw.

“This is part of the ongoing research project. The report to council will suggest a staff increase,” Sloan said, “but the increase will be based on the option that council chooses.”

Sloan said that the cost for a STR license “is being discussed and researched internally and externally with other municipal comparators. The cost of a license has not been finalized. The future staff report to council will suggest specific fees.”

Sloan confirmed that “a responding person (will) need to be onsite in 30 to 60 minutes of an issue being reported. The responding person does not necessarily need to be the owner.”

When asked where the funding for new officers and enforcement will come from Sloan pointed out “the proposed bylaw suggests that the program is funded entirely by the fees collected.”

This bylaw discussion does not rule out the future implementation of an additional Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT), likely of 4 per cent, on all STR rentals with that money going to fund further tourism initiatives in Kawartha Lakes.

Formal discussion of the proposed STR by-law will begin in earnest at council on April 4 where social media chatter indicates that there could be dozens of deputations from individuals who both support and oppose the proposed by-law.


  1. Judi Mcilroy says:

    I was not aware of survey but this is long overdue due. Shor term rentals on McGuires Beach have proven to be a detriment to the environment and the enjoyment of other owners. Dangerous fires left burning, drunken boaters, noise well into the early hours. Renters have parked on septic beds and driven cars out of the area while obviously impaired. Loud music from early in the day to well after midnight. Dangerous use of Fireworks. Police calls and fire calls costing tax payers money. I welcome this by law whole heartedly

  2. Dale Gillespie says:

    I do not understand why more staff needs to be hired for this new initiative. There should be analysis done of what can be done with current staff. Phone calls to the city are met with voice mail. Hiring more should not be the first consideration. Surely common sense will prevail and staff should be utilized properly.
    It is about time that this law has enacted.

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