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A Quick Look At The Short-Term Rental Scene

Submitted by Christine Whelan

Sept 30th, 2021, VOL. 3 ISSUE 3

Sign of the times. These days, researching for story leads includes creeping local Facebook Groups. There, I typed it. I admit it. And this time, it’s no different.

I came across I post with a simple question, asking local residents how they felt about living among Airbnbs in Crystal Beach.

Some welcomed the tourists, seeing them as support to businesses. Some, possibly newer residents, were not so optimistic about the effect the border opening would have on the quiet and quaint community, as they have gotten to know it. A couple brought up issues such as the need for an infrastructure that supports the current growth. Others commented about the importance of respect among the residents and visitors, in balance.

There were comments of concern about renters being partiers. And comments of positivity, “I get to meet new people all the time”, adding that for the most part, they are respectful.

There was a comment saying they love that “we can share this wonderful place with other families who need a break, nature, and family time”

A restaurant owner on Erie Road said if it wasn’t for Airbnbs, businesses couldn’t survive. A short-term rental owner commented that he made a habit of displaying menus for local restaurants.

It seems, for every resident, there is an opinion.

One question was posed, “Curious how many of these cottages have been rentals far longer than they have been called Airbnb?” Those who have lived in the area for years know this is nothing new.

But what are the differences in these terms? And what are the current boundaries and guidelines set in place in attempts to create peace while living among said Airbnbs in Crystal Beach?

Let’s take a peek.

Defining the Three

Short-term rentals are the term used that encompasses a list including lodges, cabins, cottages, homes, condominiums, and B&Bs.

A B&B, or bed and breakfast, is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and breakfast. Bed and breakfasts are often private family homes and typically have between four and eleven rooms, with six being the average. In addition, a B&B usually has the hosts living in the house.

Airbnb is an online marketplace that connects people who want to rent out their homes with people who are looking for accommodations in that locale. It currently covers more than 100,000 cities and 220 countries worldwide. The company’s name comes from “air mattress B&B.”

According to an article in usatoday.com about the differences between the terms, the misunderstandings between them are common. And what makes it more confusing, according to Heather Turner, a marketing director quoted in the article, “Airbnb has co-opted the B&B name. The terms Airbnb and B&B are being used interchangeably by guests – and by journalists.”

“The difference between an Airbnb and a B&B starts with a complimentary full breakfast. A typical Airbnb will have a kitchen, sometimes stocked with coffee and tea, but rarely if ever, will a host prepare a full breakfast. “

A true B&B is typically independently owned, and the owner lives on property or nearby, provides daily breakfast and housekeeping and the experience is very personal. In many instances, the B&B is a historic property or has a unique quality about the building or property. A home rented online through Airbnb can also be special, but you might have to cook and clean for yourself. You might also never see your host.

These terms have come up more regularly in the Greater Fort Erie area over the last couple of summers as there has been a rising need for the Town to focus on regulations around short-term rentals.

As stated on the Town of Fort Erie website, “The Fort Erie Short-term Rental program was launched in 2020 to help establish and regulate terms and conditions for short-term rental businesses operating in Fort Erie. The program was introduced by Town Council due to a growing number of concerns from fire services, bylaw enforcement and local residents. Some areas of concern included fire safety, property maintenance and a lack of local contact.

Licence

“Starting January 1, 2020, all Fort Erie short-term rental operators (such as Airbnbs) are required to obtain a short-term rental licence from the Town of Fort Erie. Renewed annually, a licence is valid from the date of issuance until December 31 of that year.

Short-term rental operators can purchase their first short-term rental licence for $300. The second licence will cost $400; and $500 for the third and each additional property. Licence applications can be renewed online using the Town’s licence application portal.

Operators are permitted to advertise their short-term rental(s) with a valid licence. A paper copy of their licence must be posted inside the rental in a prominent location and must remain in that location permanently.

Failure to obtain the appropriate licence will result in a $600 fine, 7-day operating suspension and 10 demerit points.

Demerit Point System

Demerit points are given to any operator who fails to comply with any of the rules outlined by the Town of Fort Erie’s Short-term Rental by-law.

After seven demerit points, the operation of the short-term rental will have a meeting with the Appeals Committee. When a property accumulates 15 points, the operator will be required to attend a mandatory hearing with the appeals committee to discuss the future status of the licence (e.g. licence may be revoked/suspended).

Demerit points remain in place until the two-year anniversary date of when the points were issued.

Number of Renters

Among the listed questions and answers on the Town’s site, How many people can be in one short-term rental property? was included. The rule for the number of guests per short-term rental is subject to the limit of guests established by the approved fire safety plan or fire evacuation plan.

Another question asked, Can a tent be put up on the property for other guests to stay in? The answer is, no, there is no outside sleeping permitted on the short-term rental property.

Contacting By-law Enforcement

As stated on the Town’s site, “We want everyone to enjoy being part of the Fort Erie community. If you are concerned that a short-term rental property might be violating Town bylaws (i.e., noise and nuisance, parking, property standards, fire safety or building violation), please take a minute to review our FAQs or short-term rental by-law to confirm. If confirmed, please call Municipal By-law Enforcement during hours of operation at 905-871-1600, ext. 5216.

If you have a concern about noise and nuisance or parking outside of regular business hours, please call the non-emergency number for Niagara Regional Police Services at 905-871-2300. In case of an emergency, always call 911.

To read more about short-term rentals on the Town of Fort Erie website, go to forterie.ca, then Business >> Short-Term Rentals. A list of registered short-term rental properties in Fort Erie is now available and can be found at shorttermrentalslist.forterie.ca

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