Written by Erin Nicole Davis, contributing writer for Storeys
The Town of Gravenhurst — also known as the Gateway to Muskoka — just announced it would implement a licensing program for the municipality’s coveted short-term rental properties.
The picture-perfect region is a popular choice for cottage-seeking vacationers with dollars to drop; that is, if they’re able to score a rental before it’s booked solid for the season due to off-the-charts demand.
The move to implement a licensing program comes following a November 16 council meeting after a report by Melissa Halford, director of development services, and a presentation by Jeff Loney, manager of economic development.
A year ago, Gravenhurst voted in an information campaign to better inform both renters and property owners of their rights and responsibilities so all-too-common short-term rental horror stories are avoided. Essentially, it educates both renters and property owners about local bylaws.
But many passionate local voices said the move simply wasn’t enough. Things like partying, fire concerns, and excess garbage are too often the reality in cottage country when it comes to bad apple short-term guests.
So, this past summer, the Town of Gravenhurst conducted a survey to gauge what people thought should be done about short-term rentals.
Of 343 respondents, 184 were in favour of educating renters and property owners; 91 were in favour of licensing short-term rentals; 92 were in favour of licensing short-term rentals and restricting their location; 70 were in favour of prohibiting short-term rentals; and 50 respondents were in favour of relying on existing bylaws.
Short-term rentals undoubtedly contribute to the local economy and ensure more people can discover and enjoy the pristine part of the province. But they’re just in need of a little fine tuning to protect all parties involved.
“Gravenhurst has taken a very positive step in managing some of the challenges that short-term rentals can present. As with most municipalities (and in fact cities and towns across the world), local governments have had to grapple with the significant change that short-term rentals have brought to their areas,” says Maryrose Coleman, co-founder and director of Muskoka District Rentals.
Muskoka District Rentals, a local staple when it comes to luxury cottage rentals, submitted a statement to the Town of Gravenhurst recommending licensing as a viable way to both manage rentals and help the township track those owners that are not being respectful.
“While the vast majority of owners and renter guests are respectful of the quiet enjoyment of the property and of their neighbours, there are always a few bad eggs who disrupt the neighbouring properties,” says Coleman. “This is most often with excessive noise and can be innocent as the fact that not everyone is aware of how sound not only travels but amplifies over water. Occasionally we have a less than respectful guest, or worse, an owner renting on their own with no concern for the neighbours, who is simply trying to ‘make a buck’ and gives renting a bad rap.”
The best route for buyers and renters is to use a trusted service to avoid both unnecessary headaches and rental scams.
“As a premiere luxury rental agency in cottage country, one of our primary goals is to ensure that guests have a wonderful time at their rental property while at the same time respecting the enjoyment of the lake for the neighbours. while at all times protecting our owner’s valuable real estate assets,” says Coleman.
“Our guests sign a contract that outlines the concept of respect for the quiet enjoyment of the lake and are also given copies of the Good Neighbours Code as well as the Safe Quiet Lakes Boaters Code. We ask our owners to let their neighbours know they will be renting with us and to give them our contact details in case they have any concerns. Happily the vast majority of the time we have happy owners, neighbours, and happy guests!”
As for the fate of the licensing program, the next steps include assessing costs associated with implementing the program, what information will be gathered, and if staff must be hired to help.
Gravenhurst won’t be the first cottage country region to make the move: both Lake of Bays and the Town of Huntsville have their own licensing programs for short-term rentals.