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Paperwork highlights East Ferris’ short-term rental by-law

After months of discussion, the municipal by-law is in effect
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East Ferris passed a new municipal by-law regarding short term rentals / Stock photo

East Ferris has passed its by-law regulating short term rentals—think of those listings on Airbnb, Vrbo, and other similar sites—after much discussion amongst councillors and the public. As the process unrolled, many opinions surfaced, some against imposing regulations on renting out one’s property, and others who felt these rentals should be banned outright from the municipality.

Council and municipal staff had a delicate issue to balance, and after hearing from the community, and revising their by-law drafts, the final version is now complete. By-law number 2022-23 was passed on May 12 and the document can be found on the municipality’s website.

North Bay is also taking a close look at the issue.

See: Short-term rentals will be focus of public meeting

Here are some highlights. Licences will be required to operate a short-term rental. Licences can be applied for through the municipality and are available for either a three-month or five-month period. These time frames were much discussed by councillors, as originally, the by-law listed a three-month period only, but the decision was made to open it up to five as well.

See: East Ferris plans to bring short-term rental by-law home by April’s end

For $750 a person can purchase a licence for three months. This means the holder of the licence can rent out their place for three months within a calendar year, and these months need not be consecutive. For $1,000, you can buy a five-month licence.

There is no option for four months, and month by month licences are not for sale. It’s three or five, no in-between, and that decision came about because managing the purchasing of individual months would soon send staff into “an administrative nightmare,” councillor Terry Kelly said.

Licences must be renewed annually if owners plan to continue operating short-term rentals.

Another significant change to the draft that came about during Thursday’s meeting involved advertising the rental unit. The draft laid out that no person can advertise their space during a month that is not permitted on their licence. Councillors and staff thought that was too difficult to enforce, and ultimately deemed it unnecessary. Advertising is allowed anytime, however, the time periods of when the properties can be rented remains bound to the months on the licence.

Speaking of changes, at one point in the draft, tents were not allowed at a short-term rental location. That has changed, after all, what if the renter’s kids want to camp out for a night on the side yard? Such innocent ambitions can now materialize, as the revised by-law allows tents, but the addition of a tent cannot increase the maximum occupancy allowed within the rental unit. If the licence allows six people to stay, an owner cannot permit an extra two in the tent.

See: Short-term rentals will be focus of public meeting

Septic systems appear quite often in the by-law, as the municipality wants to ensure septic tanks can handle the number of licensed guests. When people submit their licence application, they must include a copy of the septic permit, which “allows us to ensure the permit is reflective of the number of people they are intending to rent to,” clarified Greg Kirton, the municipality’s director of community services. Kirton was one of the main authors of the by-law and will be responsible for overseeing applications for licences. He also clarified that there will be no one visiting your property from the municipality to inspect your septic system.

As for that application, here’s what the municipality wants from you. Proof you own the property, contact information, a site plan including parking layout, a floor plan showing all bedrooms and sleeping accommodations, and a listing of all websites or any other places the rental will be listed.

The septic tank permit, a plan on how to ensure renters are well-aware of local by-laws, and a waste collection plan are also required. Property owners will also require proof of commercial (not residential, a point emphasized during council’s meeting) liability insurance in the amount $2 million.

It’s a lot of paperwork, and it’s already mid-May, so what is a law-abiding short term renter to do?

Because this is all new, the municipality has enacted a transitional clause granting a two-month period in which “applications will be accepted to determine the eligibility of existing properties for a short-term rental licence.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.