Let Airbnb be
It would be a waste of time and resources for local townships to attempt to regulate or restrict private, short-term cottage rentals in Haliburton County.
Short-term rentals, and the noise and other complaints they sometimes generate, were discussed at a recent meeting of the Dysart et al economic development committee and again at an Algonquin Highlands council meeting last week.
Reeve Carol Moffatt said there is a slowly increasing number of complaints and a growing call for municipalities to do something.
She also said, correctly, that it would be foolhardy for townships to try to ban the practice.
The reality is there’s very little to do that would be practical or effective.
Cottage owners renting out their seasonal homes is nothing new. What is newer is the platform through which those rentals are offered. Sites such as Airbnb have spiked in popularity in recent years and yes, it seems like more people are taking advantage of the opportunity to subsidize their incomes by renting out the family cabin every now and again.
And why shouldn’t they? Cottages are expensive to own and maintain and a few weeks of renting can generate thousands of dollars, enough to pay that cottage’s expenses for the year. It’s quite conceivable that short-term rentals are allowing some families to keep generational cottages.
Are townships really prepared to intervene in that? Are councillors prepared to deal with the political ramifications?
Then there’s the issue of enforcement, which would be a total quagmire. All local townships have noise bylaws and some have fireworks bylaws, dictating the occasions on which fireworks are permitted.
In a community of forests and lakes, these bylaws are virtually impossible to enforce. Why add another one?
Short of having a department dedicated to regulating short-term rentals, it’s difficult to understand how townships that typically employ one bylaw officer each would take action on the issue.
And how are they going to prove who’s a renter and who isn’t?
It’s understandable that operators of traditional accommodations may not be big fans of Airbnb and there is an argument to be made about fairness. They have to pay commercial taxes, keep the proper insurance, abide by health and safety regulations, etc., so why should cottage owners who don’t have to do any of these things be able to invade their turf?
The reality is the Internet has turned a number of industries on their heads. It may not fair, but it is happening and will continue to happen. Banking. Music. Journalism. Travel agencies. Film.
Remember Blockbuster Video?
Cab companies and urban municipalities have been trying for the past few years to figure out a way to deal with Uber, the mobile app which allows everyday people to use their vehicles as taxis.
It’s impossible to do because it’s impossible to trace.
Townships trying to regulate short-term rentals will prove about as effective as trying to turn back time.