A group of roughly 200 short-term rental operators in the Grand Bend area continue to voice their displeasure with a new licensing bylaw.
On Tuesday, Lambton Shores Council passed the Short-Term Rental (STR) Licensing By-Law. The new rules, set to take effect February 2023, include an annual license fee of $500, occupancy limits of 10 people per rental and the need for an “on-call” person at all times.
President of the Lambton Short Term Rental Association Chris Lansdown said the group is calling for a public meeting on the topic. He said they haven't been able to get any traction with the mayor and council.
"It would be great if the municipality would sit down and discuss this with us. We're not opposed to registration, we're not opposed to licensing, but there are definitely issues," he said. "We're really close to this. They could get an agreement and then get 90 per cent participation. But they're so stubborn, they will not listen at all."
Lansdown said one of the big issues for operators is the municipality's plans to publish their exact addresses. He said this opens them up to robberies and thefts.
"If you Google Airbnb, you will find that Airbnb posts 'six reasons not to post your address in your listing,' and the number one reason is security of your property, not being robbed. So, is council ignorant, or are they willfully being dishonest?"
Lansdown said they also believe the demerit system included in the bylaw is wrong and strict.
"It's possible to get one bad renter, and that bad renter could actually earn you multiple demerits and now you lose your license. And maybe you weren't a bad STR, maybe you ran your STR perfectly for four years, but all of a sudden you get this one bad renter and now you're suspended," he said. "Our group actually believes it's property investors down the main street wanting to get at peoples' private properties, and nobody's covering that but we keep bringing that up and it falls of deaf ears."
Lansdown said the municipality is also ignoring the economic impact of short-term rentals in Lambton Shores. He believes they bring in a minimum of $252,000 to the local economy weekly during the summer months.
Lansdown said while operators support a lot of the proposal, it needs to be reworded and there needs to be better clarification.
"They're just like 'wait until it's implemented,' and it's like sorry, we would like to know now and that's not good enough. These are public officials, they work for us, and October's coming so they might be out of jobs."
Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber said he feels the bylaw is fair.
"There was public consultation. We had over 1,400 survey responses -- worker groups, usability groups with all the different aspects, short-term rental owners, hotel owners and residents. So, a lot of work went into trying to get it right, and I think we've got it as close to right as we can for now. There may need to be adjustments, but I think it's a very good start."
Lansdown said council worked on the bylaw under COVID and really didn't get any participation going. He added that he was never contacted.
Weber said the bylaw covers everything from parking to noise and occupancy limits.
"It's fairly comprehensive but it's also very fair and reasonable, we believe. Every day common sense things that people need to have in consideration for the full-time residents that are there."
With files from Stephanie Chaves