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Short-Term Rental By-Laws and Licenses in Ontario’s Cottage Country

Ontario’s picturesque Cottage Country has long been a popular destination for tourists and vacationers for generations. With the rise of short-term rentals in recent years, property owners have found new opportunities to share the beauty of these areas with travelers from around the world. However, as the short-term rental market continues to grow, so does the need for regulations and licensing to ensure the harmonious coexistence of residents and tourists. In this post, we’ll delve into the intricacies of short-term rental by-laws and licenses in some of the popular regions in Ontario’s cottage country.

If you were able to attend our Town Hall, which took place in January 2024, you’ll understand some of the expenses and stress by-laws and licensing have put on property owners. Right alongside our cottage owners, we’re diving into license applications, guest codes of conduct, floor plans, and helping to connect our property owners with Emergency/Responsible Person contacts, all across cottage country. 

Ontario Cottage Rental Manager’s Association

This all starts with the Ontario Cottage Rental Manager’s Association (OCRMA). CLRM’s co-founders, Heather Bayer & Craig White, were founding members, with Craig serving as Chair for the OCRMA in its infancy. The OCRMA was created in 2019 by a handful of cottage rental agency managers and CEOs who saw a need for guidelines across the industry as a whole. While the organization has grown tremendously throughout its lifespan, CLRM is still a proud member. Presently, CEO of CLRM, Justin Keller-Hobson sits as a Director on the Board, specializing in Short Term Rental By-Laws, Licenses, and Regulations.

Travel Industry Council of Ontario

Being certified with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) is a member requirement of the OCRMA, and one of the first necessities when an agency is considering joining the OCRMA. TICO is widely respected across the province as Ontario’s Travel Regulator. It helps our guests and prospective guests feel protected by a regulating government entity. With rental scams on the rise, guests are more cautious when looking for legitimate cottage rentals, being a TICO-registered agency helps them feel safe when spending their hard-earned dollars with us on your cottage rental.

Similar to the OCRMA, TICO is a governing body, larger than any one corporation or agency, that is a big player in the travel industry, particularly in Ontario. It runs a Code of Ethics that aims to promote fair and ethical competition within the industry, while ensuring customers, or guests, are treated fairly. TICO requires all members of staff who sell travel to the public to be certified, so you can rest assured, all staff at CLRM have passed their TICO certification exam. 

Municipalities Requiring a License

Many municipalities across Ontario currently either require a license or are in the process of implementing one. CLRM will do its best to keep this list as up-to-date as possible, with links to appropriate informational pages to help you determine the best course of action for your property. Check out the list below to see if your municipality is on it:

Municipal Accommodation Tax

The Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) is a revenue tool implemented by various municipalities in Ontario to generate funds for tourism-related initiatives and infrastructure improvements. The MAT rate can vary across different municipalities, typically ranging from 2% to 4% of the cost of accommodations, such as cottage rentals, short-term vacation rentals, B&Bs & hotel stays. Each municipality has the autonomy to set its MAT rate. Not all municipalities have implemented this tax.

Applying for a License

License applications, although vary from municipality to municipality, are typically similar across the board. You can obtain your license application from the municipality’s website, or in person at their office. Typically you can either print the application off to mail in, or it can be completed online.

Licensing fees range in rates, depending on the municipality and type of license required. This range can be anywhere from $250-$3000.

Based on CLRM’s conversations with various by-law offices across Ontario’s Cottage Country, we understand that what is provided on the initial application can very typically be added to and/or amended over time, both before and after your license is granted. Municipalities want to work with their property owners and are not trying to work against you.

If you have any questions about your license application, don’t be afraid to reach out to both the municipality and CLRM for guidance.

Limitations Due to Licensing

In many municipalities across Ontario, limitations are being implemented due to licensing requirements. For example, in the Municipality of Magnetawan, regardless of the size of the property and the number of bedrooms or comfortable sleeping spots, the maximum occupancy limit of a property will be capped at 10. This could mean extra beds are in the cottage and being unused, however, on the flip side, this can allow for flexible sleeping accommodations for families of various make-ups.

Guest Code of Conduct

Many municipalities, such as the Township of Ramara, have implemented a Code of Conduct that guests are expected to abide by and sign for acknowledgment. CLRM can help manage all required guest paperwork and ensure the completion of items required by guests, such as signing the municipality’s Code of Conduct. Typically, the Code of Conduct is along the same lines as a second Terms & Conditions (that CLRM guests already agree to), so it’s not typically something where concerning information is shared with guests for the first time.

Your Local Council

If licensing requirements aren’t yet implemented in your municipality, your voice is strong, if you choose to attend local council meetings and plead your case. Typically, properties registered with a TICO & OCRMA registered agency aren’t concerning short-term rentals in the municipality. The short-term rentals that municipalities are most concerned with are the ones not regulated to any extent, either by the property owner or a reputable management agency. Your voice, especially when armed with facts by TICO and the OCRMA, can be loud.

If licensing and by-laws have been implemented in your municipality, it doesn’t mean changes can’t be made. Contact the council, and contact the local attractions that rely on the Tourism Industry in your town, plead your case. See what compromises can be made to allow cottage rentals & short-term rentals to resume in your municipality.

Examples of Licensing Expectations

Many municipalities require an Emergency Contact/Responsible Person to be contacted and on-site at a property within a specified timeframe (typically 30-120 minutes), at any given time throughout a reservation. While CLRM staff aren’t necessarily living within the timeframes or distance radius required by each municipality, and therefore cannot be listed as this main on-site contact, we do wish to be listed as an emergency/responsible telephone contact for our registered properties. 

Other licensing expectations are typically what CLRM has already been working with both owners and guests to manage and shouldn’t be a surprise to any returning guest. This includes items such as:

  • Ensuring pets are leashed at all times while outdoors
  • Limiting the size of campfires to the size of a small firepit & following all fire risk protocols and bans (if implemented)
  • No or limited fireworks

We at CLRM, often work with property owners and guests alike, to ensure responsible renting through guest and owner education, managing successful cottage rentals effectively and being a responsible guest when visiting our Ontario cottage rentals. In situations where regions and municipalities are taking a stand against short-term vacation rentals, it’s important that we, as a collective, continue to educate, with councils, municipalities, and regions alike.

CottageLINK Rental Management
Email: info@clrm.ca
Toll Free: 1-866 323 6698

Our Hours:
Mon-Fri 9-5
Sat-Sun 9-5

Business Address:
PO Box 39036
Columbia PO, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2T 0A7

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