At the Council meeting on June 28, 2021, Cobourg resident Anne-Marie Jackson complained about problems from an Airbnb establishment on Blake Street. She had concerns about parking, parties with loud and disruptive guests, drug and criminal activity (and as a result, increased police activity) and noise. Complaints to Airbnb went unanswered. She also included a petition from 35 residents. As a result, Council directed staff to investigate regulating Short Term Rental Accommodation (STRA) and present their report at the November 15 Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting. The Agenda for the October 25 CoW meeting includes this report – it’s early! Staff reviewed the options and recommend both a revision of the Zoning By-Law and the establishment of a requirement to license such establishments.
Anne-Marie was specific in her request – see Specific Request by Anne-Marie Delegation in Resources below.
Options Considered by Staff (Brent Larmer)
- Reactive Approach – Existing Frameworks Not recommended since existing policies may not encompass the desired scope that a new Zoning By-law and/or Licensing mechanism can entail. It is also very cumbersome, costly and would be challenging to have the Courts stop the use from occurring and only deal with some of the nuisance issues such as noise and parking.
- Pre-emptive Approach – Amend the Town’s Zoning By-law Not recommended since the implementation of a zoning standard does not address ongoing/existing STRAs and creates legal nonconforming fragmentation between new and existing sites and creates an uneven playing field amongst operators of STRAs. A new zoning standard would also not deal with site inspections, safety, garbage or other compliance issues that would need to be defined in a licencing By-law.
- Administrative Approach – Licensing STRAs
The benefits of requiring STRA licences are as follows:
- The Town will know the location of all legal STRAs;
- The Town can require the Owner to follow all applicable health and safety standards;
- If necessary, the Town may be able to suspend, revoke or to refuse to renew the Licence of an operator who has violated the Zoning By-law, who has consistently allowed the dwelling to be a source of a nuisance to others in the community or who no longer qualifies to operate a STRA; and
- The Town may introduce a Code of Conduct to establish accountability on behalf of the owners and renters.
The downside is the cost of administering and enforcement although some costs would be recovered by the licensing fee. Based on existing licensing fees, this would be $500 for initial licensing of each property and $250 for renewal.
In formulating the By-Law, Staff will be looking at what other Municipalities are doing – notably Oshawa which is what Anne-Marie Jackson recommended (see list in resources below).
Staff are asking Council for direction to prepare a new by-law to establish a requirement to License STRAs plus revise the Zoning by-law. Before this is done, a survey would be held using Engage Cobourg and before final approval, a public meeting would be held to get feedback from the public and current operators of STRAs.
- Staff report to Council – Short-Term Rental Accommodations Information Report
- List of Short Term Rental Properties in Cobourg
- Cobourg Considering Regulating Airbnb – 2 July 2021 – includes link to Anne-Marie Jackson’s letter
- Public Town Meetings – Includes Budget meetings.
- Summary of Municipalities Regulating STRAs.
Specific request by Anne-Marie Delegation
We request that the council consider regulations for short-term rentals, such as those put in place by the City of Oshawa on September 30, 2020. This ensures Short Term Rental Owners (S.T.R) must be licensed and adhere to guidelines which intend to limit and license short term rental properties. We have included these below for your convenience:
- Enhance the enforcement of the Zoning By-law provision that requires a Short-Term Rental (S.T.R.) to be the principal resident of the S.T.R. Operator;
- Introduce a requirement to have a local contact available at all times to respond to issues and who is available to attend to the S.T.R. within a period of no greater than one (1) hour from the time of contact by telephone or email;
- Introduce insurance requirements;
- Enhance the enforcement of the Zoning By-law provision that restricts S.T.R. operations to less than twenty-eight (28) consecutive days and no more than one hundred and eighty (180) days in a calendar year;
- Limit the number of rooms to two (2) with a maximum of two (2) occupants in each when renting by the room;
- Enhance the enforcement of the Zoning By-law provision that prohibits any other rental use within a dwelling unit that contains an S.T.R.; and,
- Introduce a Visitor’s Code that would provide information about relevant City by-laws to S.T.R. renters.
Committee of the Whole Decision – 25 October 2021
The recommendations by Brent Larmer as outlined above were approved with the addition that the staff analysis would include the pros and cons of applying a 4% tax to STRA (but not other accommodation).