There has been a lot of talk regarding licensing STR's in Simcoe County. With the newly implemented STR by-law in Tiny Township, many other municipalities are starting to discuss what can be done to regulate STR's and ensure that neighbourhoods remain peaceful and enjoyable to live in. We at Hostbnb have joined the discussion and have shared our thoughts with our local mayor and councillors in Midland, ON. We invite you to read our letter to our municipal office in order to gain insight and ideas in regards to what can be done to ensure STR's can continue to function, while ensuring neighbourhoods remain peaceful and enjoyable to live in.
"My name is Nicole and I am a property owner as well as a long term and short term
rental property manager. As a resident and short-term rental owner, I would like to
provide my feedback and recommendations regarding Short Term Rentals in Midland.
Our family came to this area because we were able to rent cottages in the 1960’s.
Short Term Rentals have been a part of this community for decades. Enjoying
spending time here in the summers is what made our family decide to live here
permanently and buy property and in doing so, contribute to the local economy.
I have been an Airbnb host for over 5 years now and my main source of income is
through this business, so the current talks about STR bylaws are of great interest to me.
I am also a volunteer Airbnb Community Leader and I moderate the Simcoe County
Airbnb Host’s Facebook group. This allows me to hear the perspectives from other STR
owners in the area.
Right now, there is a lot of fear and anger around the newly
implemented bylaw in Tiny Township. I speak for myself as well as many very
responsible STR owners in the area that although we agree that some regulations
should be implemented, the bylaw in Tiny is excessive and will surely impact the
economy negatively. We are aware that there are a few “party Airbnb’s” in the area and
agree that something needs to be done about this. That being said, restricting STR’s the
way that Tiny is doing will severely impact many people’s income as well as many local
businesses in the area. Furthermore, I understand that there is a lack of long-term
rentals in the area, however many STR’s are either 3 season cottages, people’s primary
residences or in my case, we have an apartment that our family uses half of the year to
visit us, and we rent it out on Airbnb for the other half. STR owners are not at fault for
the housing crisis and should not be penalized as such. We need to look to our
provincial government to make amendments to the Residential Tenancies act in order
for property owners to feel comfortable renting to long term tenants without the current
risks and lack of rights for landlords. I manage 3 long term rental properties as well as 4
short term rentals and I have seen both sides. Many of our short-term rentals in the area
are luxury cottages and homes that would never been considered an affordable housing
option for many residents.
Short term rentals contribute to our local economy in many ways. My family decided to
build a house to be used as a short-term rental in order to supplement our income and
to give others the opportunity to come and enjoy our beautiful area. Building that home
gave work to local contractors, provides income to the town in the form of taxes,
provided income to local building supply stores and their employees, and continues to
provide local cleaners and maintenance people with work and brings money to local
businesses and restaurants. On top of that, myself and many other hosts have been
making strong efforts to support our local businesses by providing welcome gifts with
locally sourced products, providing recommendations on local spots to visit, as well as
providing a clean and enjoyable place for tourists to visit our beautiful town.
A couple of years ago, Tay Township was also debating what to do about STR’s. They
have since provided hosts with pamphlets of the towns existing Bylaw’s regarding noise, garbage, fires etc. This has been a very great help to us and our guests to ensure that
everyone understands the rules.
There are some absent Airbnb hosts in the area as well which contributes to the “party Airbnb” atmosphere. I think that it is very important to have someone local that can check up on the property and be available to ensure that things are running smoothly. I have a very strict rental policy and I actively monitor and respond to any unacceptable behaviour. The most important thing that I always enforce with my guests is that the number of guests at any property does not exceed 2 people per legal bedroom. For some of the properties this is to ensure the septic system will not be overwhelmed, and also to discourage large groups and partiers. We use Ring security cameras at the front door to monitor how many guests are entering the property as well. Guests are told about the cameras as well as our maximum guest policy and local bylaws prior to booking, once they have booked, a week before checking in and it is also listed in our guest welcome book. This has allowed us as responsible owners to encourage family groups to come and has discouraged the “party” groups. In my 5 years of hosting we have never had any complaints from our neighbours. We live in the bottom unit of one of our Airbnb’s and the owners of another property live right next door to one, so we also do not want to hear excessive noise when we are outside enjoying our deck. We can fully understand if inconsiderate guests at other short term rentals disturb their neighbours….that is not acceptable.
I do believe that some licensing and regulations need to be put in place as there are
unfortunately some irresponsible owners of STR’s. There are also irresponsible
neighbours that are permanent residents that cause excessive noise and disruption as
well…….it’s not just the short term renters that can be noisy. There are already bylaws in place regarding fire and noise and other issues. Our local bylaw officers just need to enforce the current bylaws for neighbourhood complaints of both short and long term rentals. If the town was not able to resolve concerns in the past, what is going to change to allow them to do so going forward? I believe this question must be answered before moving forward with any licensing of STR’s. Why go through this process if disturbance issues are not going to be dealt with?
Below are some suggestions on how to allow STR’s to continue to operate while
ensuring neighbourhood concerns are addressed:
1. Short term rentals should be registered with the town. Contact information for the
owners and/or property managers should be provided. There must be a local contact to
call in case of issues. However, STR owners should not have to provide all renters
contact info. If there is an issue, then yes of course the contact info for that renter must
be shared but I think it may be a privacy issue for the Town to be given contact info for
all the people who are renting? Also, it would be an onerous and costly task for
someone to collect and administer all that information.
2. Should the town decide to licence STR’s, it should be for a nominal fee like maybe
$40 per year, the same cost as getting a fire permit, and done online for ease of
access.. Money can be collected from those who break the rules since they are the
ones that are costing the taxpayer money and resources.
3. STR’s should be limiting guests to number of legal bedrooms. This will reduce the
number of allowable guests and contribute to reduced noise levels.
4. Should Midland decide to create a STR committee, the committee must also have
members of the public. Perhaps one STR owner and one resident?
4. STR bylaws should not limit the maximum rental days per year. Insurance is readily
available for the whole year. Limiting the allowable rental days will not impact any noise
and disturbance issues. It will also likely cause many STR’s to go “underground”
causing further issues. Most of the noise happens in the summer and would likely be
during that period. I believe it is an unnecessary restriction that has no bearing on the
STR. Making sure the owners are responsible is more important.
5. Implement a demerit point system and fines. This will encourage owners to find
ways of making sure their renters are not disrupting their neighbours.
6. A clear pamphlet listing local bylaws should be created and given to STR hosts to
provide to their guests. Please refer to the Tay Township pamphlet as an example
7. The Airbnb platform is also actively working with hosts and neighbourhoods to
address the issue of party houses. As of August 20, 2020, Airbnb announced a global
ban on all parties and events at Airbnb listings. If they receive reports that a listing is
disrupting the surrounding community, they may request that the Host update their rules
or suspend the listing.
8. When a property that’s listed on Airbnb is causing a disturbance—whether that’s excessive noise, a disruptive party, a gathering of more than 16 people, or unsafe behaviour—members of the local community can report it at Neighbourhood Support,
which provides a link to local emergency services. They’ll also have access to the
Neighbourhood Support team phone number, where they can report a party that’s still in
progress. Once an issue is reported, Airbnb will send a confirmation email explaining
what happens next. Furthermore, Airbnb and Minut are collaborating on noise
prevention support for Hosts. They are now offering Hosts a free noise sensor and three
months of subscription free to Minut’s noise and occupancy monitoring service, and
they are also integrating Minut noise alerts into Airbnb’s messaging tool.
The responsible STR owners in the area welcome sensible and enforceable regulations
to ensure the rights of everyone are respected. We are happy to collaborate with the
committee, local neighbourhoods and STR hosts to come to a resolution that benefits
Nicole Thielmann - Hostbnb Inc.