Stricter rules ahead for short-term rentals in Aurora

Stricter rules will soon be in effect for owners and operators of short-term rental units in Aurora.

Last week, Council voted to proceed with the formal drafting of a new short-term rental by-law.

Targeting units rented individually or through third-party sites like Airbnb and Expedia, the settlement, according to the City, “will implement various requirements for owners and operators of short-term rental properties, such as obtaining a license from the City to provide security, maintenance and upkeep of licensed properties.

The new bylaw, once officially enacted, will also establish a “Rent Compliance Monitoring System” that will be used by City Bylaws Department staff to allow residents to file complaints associated with short-term rentals.

Moving forward with drafting the bylaw was unanimously approved by Council, but after a healthy debate, local lawmakers said the bylaw can only be enacted once it comes back to Council to further examination.

Councilor Michael Thompson, for example, questioned staff recommendations on setting up a demerit system that would penalize owners of short-term rentals for various infractions. If a noise complaint, for example, has been received at the City and the complaint has been deemed valid, the owner will receive demerit points on their licence.

“This process is intended to hold operators accountable and ensure continued compliance with regulations and provincial laws while mitigating impacts on the community at large,” Bylaws Manager Alexander Wray said in a report to Council.

But Councilor Thompson reiterated his concerns that demerit points may not have lasting consequences.

“At the General Committee, I spoke about the demerit system and what I thought of the seven points associated with it when the business license was revoked,” he said. “[The report] talks about the annual reset of accumulated demerit points. I think there are some that shouldn’t be reset every year. If they have a fire code violation, if they’re operating with a suspended or revoked license, I don’t see [that] be reset every year.

Tougher fines should be considered and that’s something he said he wants to see when an official settlement is presented.

Councilors nevertheless agreed that moving forward with a settlement was in the best interest of “protecting residents”.

“I think we’re doing the right thing,” said Councilor Sandra Humfryes, noting that similar bylaws have been passed in neighboring communities like Newmarket, Georgina and Vaughan. “We have to protect ourselves. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about and protecting homeowners. I hope this will become a very positive implementation. There’s a lot of work and commitment with that. I’m sure there will be others who will move forward but, until then, I support the motion.

Councilor Wendy Gaertner added: “This protects residents from any unwanted issues that may be associated with this. [Bed and Breakfasts] are great and would help generate tourism, but it is very important that the residents and their quality of life are not affected. I would like to see more points regarding the posting of the business license and also regarding also a violation of the Building Code Act [because] it’s about security.

Mayor Tom Mrakas also supported the drafting of the bylaw.

“I don’t think any of us would disagree that allowing residents to rent a room, earn extra income, help pay for their property, maybe, those are all good things,” he said. “At the same time, we have an obligation to minimize any risk or negative impact on our community, on our established neighborhoods, on the residents who live there. It is our obligation. I think in creating a regulation that does that, it’s fair, I think that’s something that we need to put forward and… those are details that are going to be fleshed out.

“When [the draft bylaw comes back, we can look] to move forward with an appropriate settlement that minimizes these negative impacts on our community.

If the draft by-law were approved by Council when introduced, it would require all short-term rentals (STRs) and bed and breakfasts to obtain a business license and place a sign on their property identifying it as a company. Only one STR or B&B will be allowed on a lot and inside a dwelling. One off-street parking space will be required for each room rented. A maximum limit of six guests will also be in place.

“Recent data suggests that there are approximately 56 to 115 STR properties unique to Aurora,” Wray said. “This number fluctuates seasonally and can be influenced by community events, seasonal travel trends, sports tournaments, etc.

“On average, Aurora STRs charge an average of $113 CAD per night. 68% of Aurora’s listings are classified as single-family homes, with 64% of listings listing the entire home for rent. This translates to, on average, between 36 and 74 entire real estate listings at any given time.

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