By Kirk Winter

Few local issues have created as much chatter in the City of Kawartha Lakes as what to do about short-term rentals.

A short-term rental is defined as any property that is rented out for a time period of less than 30 days at a go. Short-term rentals do not include bed and breakfasts, hotels, trailer parks or campgrounds. Most short-term rentals in CKL are cottages that are rented to non-family members when the owners do not need the property. This additional income lets many people hold on to family cottages despite ever-increasing property taxes, insurance costs and the costs of improvements and upkeep.

Many of these properties have been successfully rented for years. However, there are always a few who spoil a good thing for the many, and these are the properties that have been discussed at Council for the last two years.

If you happen to live beside one of these poorly managed and poorly maintained short-term rentals you have likely seen almost everything. You may also have been forced to call By-Law Enforcement, the Fire Department or the OPP depending upon how dangerous things have become at the short-term rental on your street.

Dogs on the loose, huge bonfires, noise at all hours of the night, public nudity, drunkenness and cars parked where they shouldn’t be are only some of the problems reported to CKL officials. Unfortunately for the people who live around these short-term rentals, it is a problem they face almost every weekend once the weather gets nice.

The City has spent the last year codifying the new rules for short-term rentals and they were released to the public just before the Victoria Day long weekend to take effect immediately. Council has tried to walk a delicate line so as not to punish responsible renters, and to come down as hard as they can particularly on repeat offenders.

The new by-law includes the following :

  • Rules regarding the size and location of bonfires.

  • Rules to keep roadways clear of renters’ vehicles that overflow from packed driveways.

  • Rules regarding animals being “under care and under control at all times.”

  • Rules regarding waste, recycling and garbage removal.

  • Rules that prohibit outdoor amplified music after 11pm, yelling, shouting and the playing of musical instruments outdoors after 9pm, and codifying that persistent noise made by a pet is prohibited at all times

The new rules also make it very clear that the property owner is responsible for the guests they rent to, and all fines will be the responsibility of the property owner.

The fine structure is as follows:

  • First Occurrence – No cost

  • Second Occurrence - $112

  • Third Occurrence - $225

  • Fourth Occurrence - $445

  • Fifth Occurrence - $894

  • Sixth Occurrence – Fees continue to double

The City is sending out a very clear message to property owners that they are responsible for the renters they chose to allow at their properties. One bad week with the wrong people and the landlord could now find themselves losing money rather than making money.

Landlords are encouraged to carefully screen potential tenants, ask for references from previous short-term rental owners, and to meet the renters at the property on the first day to get their new tenants settled and make sure that the six who were promised to show up don’t become 16. That first face-to-face meeting will also allow the property owners to go through their expectations with their potential renters, and the CKL expectations as well.

City officials also encourage owners to provide neighbours a phone contact where they can report problems to you before they have to make an official complaint. Most issues can be resolved in an informal manner before they escalate to a police/By-Law enforcement level.

The City has put together a very informative poster that they encourage all potential landlords to put up in a prominent place in their short-term rentals so there is no confusion regarding expectations.

For more information on the new bylaws do not hesitate to contact the City and ask for the By-Law Enforcement Department.