On June 25th, Council decided to delay voting on by-laws that would legalize short-term rentals in single-family dwellings but require their owners or hosts — in Airbnb lingo — to purchase a license to operate them. The cost for the license is yet to be determined — but could be as high as $2000.
After hearing mostly negative feedback from residents, council sent the proposed licensing system for short-term rental accommodations (STRAs) back to Town staff for further review and possible revision. Chief concerns are the high licensing fee, which could make compliance an issue, and occupancy limits — a maximum of eight guests for one to two bedrooms, and 12 guests for three to four bedrooms — which several residents thought were too high.
A decision on the new by-laws will not be made until the fall, leaving residents who live next to so-called “party palaces” or “ghost hotels” with little relief this summer.
One Keswick resident on Canal Street, Rick Krecker, who supports a licensing system, complained of having to call York Regional Police (YRP) late on a Saturday night to deal with Airbnb guests playing loud music, and screaming and yelling.
“When you say it’s a short-term rental accommodation. It may be for them, but it’s not for us,” he said. “It’s the same thing over and over again. It’s like ground-hog day for us.”
While YRP did respond to the noise complaint, no charges were laid and only a verbal warning was given.
While there are no new by-laws on the books to punish “bad apple” short-term rental owners and their guests, the Town has introduced an “enhanced enforcement program” to police existing noise, parking and refuse bylaws.
According to Mike Hutchinson, Acting Manager, Municipal Law Enforcement, two by-law officers – dedicated to short-term rental complaints – will be on duty until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the summer.
There will also be officers available on Sunday evenings during holiday long-weekends — normally, by-law officers punch the clock at 8 p.m.
This means that if there is a noise complaint between 8 p.m. and midnight, residents should call the Town at 905-476-4301 ext. 2281.
“If an officer does not answer the phone, we would like the resident to leave a voicemail with all the relevant details,” said Mr. Hutchinson. “As long as the officers are not out investigating a similar complaint, the voicemail should be returned promptly.”
But if the noise complaint is after midnight, your only option is to call YRP — who may be busy with other calls deemed a higher priority.
Mr. Hutchinson also says by-law officers will not respond to a noise complaint if police are not available to accompany them: “Our officers are not equipped to walk into potentially volatile situations at night without support from the police.”
“If we find police to be unavailable, we can still deal with the violation after the fact, by following-up the next day,” he added. “Of course, that will not immediately resolve the situation, but we can still follow-up with legal action as a deterrent for future incidents.”
The set fine for an offence is a $120 ticket, plus administrative fees. However, in rare cases, a by-law officer can serve a summons under the Provincial Offences Act, which carries a maximum fine of $5,000.
According to a report submitted to council, last year there were a total of six complaints after-hours, with only one ticket issued. This year, so far, no complaints have been issued under the enhanced enforcement program, while one complaint was received and dealt with during regular hours with no ticket issued.
However, Mr. Hutchinson expects these numbers to increase as more residents become aware of the program.
For more information, please visit the Town’s webpage on short-term rental accommodations and by-law enforcement
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