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Bylaws and short term cottage rentals, a very harsh reality for Owners

Published on October 5, 2012 by Sweet Marie

Bylaws and short term cottage rentals
You could do everything right, from your rental agreements, to your market research but at the end of the rental week if your zoning is residential you could be in a lot of trouble… if a neighbour complains.

Every township is different; this is part of where my own issues lie. It shouldn’t be that way. Provincially all the zoning should be the same. But it’s not, because municipal townships, like cities are given a lot more legal rights than they deserve. Our property taxes that we pay a large sum for every year, go towards schools, fire departments, police, sanitation, snow removal for roadways, and yes even commerce. Municipalities spend money on marketing local businesses to attract commerce to the local area towns to promote and stimulate the economy. This is where the by-law’s become asinine. Somewhere, sometime, someone, on some property, did something not so nice. Possibly they littered, had a wild party, disturbed the piece, fished without a license, who knows….but what happened was huge and had a huge impact on the ownership and usage rights of owners. If you were renting out your cottage in certain townships, not all, your usage was challenged because of the zoning.

It just happened to us. One of my guests, (a much disorganized over-worked family, inexperienced in the ways of cottage living) made the mistake of having a fire during a fire ban. One of my crabby neighbours complained and got me in trouble with the township. Why did they complain? They complained because they do not like the fact that we rent it out on short term time frames to families. They complained because they have an issue with the amount of money. I have invested in my property, and they have not spent a nickel in 30 years of ownership. They complained because for some reason they wanted to “stick it to us”. Whatever their reason for complaining, the damage has been down. Now I am left with having to pay to “apply” to have my zoning changed. There’s no guarantee that it will be approved, because like anything, it’s subject to public notice and approval. Again more red tapeà for a process that quite frankly shoots the foot of the municipal program trying to promote commerce in the area…nice. How so?

Well for starters, my guests spend a lot of money in town and in the community, from shopping groceries, to renting out boats and land craft, to hiring locals for event planning, to movies, to cruises to restaurants and fire wood. You start to complicate matters by stopping the short term rentals, you impact that business. I’ve already told all of our service providers what has happened and they are seriously “p—– off!” The few complaining spend nothing by comparison. Their lives are not impacted by the short term rentals either way; they just found a way to hurt someone and a group of business owners out of over reacting. Whatever happened to being kind and speaking nicely to people to get them to put out their fire? And when it comes to noise, those complaints have no business going before a township office (even though in my case the complaint had nothing to do with noise, ever.)

Secondly, some of the people I have rented to have gone one to purchase their own cottages later on…do you think they want to buy in an area that has a bunch of crabby apples who don’t care at all about economic survival? It takes more than a couple hundred of people to keep a town, hospital and its schools full and thriving. It takes a stimulated economy, regardless of where it is located. Without the temporary influx of tourists, our community would dry up. These crab apples don’t understand that. They have become too sensitive and too agoraphobic to care about the community beyond their 2 or 3 acres.

Thirdly, vacancy is a huge problem in our community, as in many others. There is a huge shortage of short term vacancies. The local hospital and schools will often engage in short term or temporary contracts; as do many local builders who also recruit contractors to do a project for a short period of time. Could you and your family afford to stay in a hotel for two weeks while your spouse works under contract? Could your spouse commute? Could they stay alone in a hotel for two weeks? Again, does anyone understand how tough it is out there to find a job, a house, or a home when you are in between lodging and careers? Cottage rentals often solve a lot of problems of this nature for families. But the crab apples again don’t care. Their feathers have been ruffled because someone made an error in judgement ONCE out of years and years worth of quite, calm, and peaceful lodging, and they are going to make that owner PAY.

Well I can only say this about the crab apples, “be very careful what you wish for and how you empower the elected officials….the more oppressive the tactics bestowed upon those in power…the more oppressive the acts they enact upon ALL they govern over…”

My short term advice to all owners, check your by-law’s. Should you find yourself in the same situation as we are in at present, apply for a zoning change and pray for a miracle.


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