Private short-term vacation rentals may soon require a license, be included in Municipal Accommodation Tax

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Huntsville’s Municipal Accommodation Tax kicked in on April 1, 2019, and Town staff are now assessing expanding the three-year pilot program to include private short-term vacation rentals, like those listed on Airbnb and VRBO or through private agencies.

Currently, the tax applies to short-term accommodation providers like hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfasts, who are required to charge the four per cent fee and remit it monthly to the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association, which will then distribute the funds—30 per cent to the municipality and the remainder to a non-share capital corporation which will act as the Town’s designated tourism entity. Two small local resorts—Cedar Grove Lodge and Clyffe House Resort—are exempt from the tax, at least until other Muskoka municipalities implement it for similar properties.

There are an estimated 1,000 private short-term vacation rental properties in the Huntsville area.

The Town’s Economic Development Coordinator, Scott Ovell, highlighted the process staff will be taking over the next few months to assess licensing options and inclusion of those properties in the Municipal Accommodation Tax program at Huntsville’s Development Services Committee on June 12.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from our local hoteliers and this council that they’d like to see this included so it’s our intention to expedite this as fast as possible,” he said.

Mayor Scott Aitchison commented that, “One of things about a licensing system is it does give the municipality a little more control over what’s going on and more awareness of who is operating [a short-term rental]. The other thing it can do too is, as part of that, we can require things like annual fire inspections to make sure that smoke detectors and that kind of stuff are operating correctly.”

Councillor Jonathan Wiebe asked if every property rented as short-term vacation accommodations would be included, “even if they rent it for one day a year.”

Ovell said that that will be the intent of the program, “but I think the reality is that we aren’t going to get everybody but we have to develop a system and a process that is designed to capture as many people operating a private short-term vacation rental within the boundaries of Huntsville.”

Staff will report back to the Development Services Committee in September with their findings.

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9 Comments

  1. Barry groomes on

    Can you say money grab… some people are doing the short term rental so they can pay the high taxes that Muskoka has reamed everyone with. The town taxes the property already jeezus when does it end.

    • This tax is hardly a cash grab. The majority of the income goes to maintaining the flow of tourism to the region. If, as an operator, you had to put out for proper fire systems, licenses, and other sundry costs would you not want to operate on a level playing field? These rental properties do not do so!
      In my small slice of heaven there are about 10 to 15% of the homes converted to short term rentals, most of them are well maintained and rent to responsible people. The occasional bad apple does indeed spoil for the rest though. Try sleeping through a group of young kids singing along to the karaoke machine at 4 in the morning or letting off fireworks during a total fireban!

      • Kathleen Gilchrist on

        I am so tired of hearing this is a tax grab. Most places here in Hidden Valley are cottages where the owners rarely stay if they do at all, and renting them out as B&B’s are just a money grab for the owners. One place in the valley wants over $600.00 a night. They charge $20.00 per bed for bedding and it sleeps well over 12 people. Well over 20 people stay at this place, plus another cottage owned by the same owner that does not live here. For the main part it is a big party place. The OPP have been called endless times. The party people have threatened to kill the owner, plus have assaulted neighbours. They continually have camp fires when there is no burning in place. The language is terrible. The men urinate off the balconies in daylight with small children witnessing everything. People have no idea how this is destroying the area. It wouldn’t be allowed in hotels, motels or any other B&B’s. As for places that rent a room under B&B’s, they should also pay. If motels and resorts pay, B&B’s must be treated the same. The tax is legislated and the municipality has the right to collect it. I just wish that there was more support for the residents in ending the party places.

  2. So tell me how exactly does the municipality taxing ANY rental and making the renter pay even more going to do more then allow the local government to stick they’re greedy fingers in the pie. It seems every time you turn around we are being taxed Yet again.
    It’s getting awfully expensive to live in this free country. No wonder the homeless problem is a rising concern even in muskoka. Great job.

    • Elizabeth Rice - Doppler Publisher on

      Hi Marv,
      The tax is a ‘tourism’ tax on short-term rentals. Think Airbnb or VRBO. It is not a tax on long-term rentals.

  3. Short-term renters stress the area’s infrastructure in ways that are not yet well understood. It is time that local governments took a look at what is happening and assess impact. If that means registering, licensing and taxing — then I am for it after a fulsome study.

    It is now time that as property owners we shift our thinking from “Property Rights to Property Responsibility” if we are to continue to enjoy a place we all love ….. Cottage Country!

  4. From time to time we host Airbnb guests in part of our home, usually a couple but sometimes up to four people. Without exception we have found them to be courteous, law abiding and very appreciative of the wonders of Muskoka. They spend money in town, in restaurants and food stores as well as in the parks.

    However these visitors are beneficiaries of the multitude of services on offer in the town, not least access to our fine hospital. A small tax, which hosts would pass on to guests, is very appropriate. It would be good to see some of the proceeds going towards capital costs in the Huntsville Hospital.

    And it would also be good to level the field with resorts as regards standards of rental accommodation, so that Airbnb hosts would also be subject to regulations , for instance on carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. In order to reduce the Town’s costs of inspection it might check a random sample of short term rental properties each year, as opposed to having to inspect them all.

  5. Each property is zoned for a purpose. It is amazing how much bureaucracy is involved in making improvements to our properties yet folks are renting their homes regularly which in my mind does meet zoning requirements. Yet the same bureaucracy does not seem to apply to folks that rent out their homes as a business.
    Look at the issue of the car dealership this past week. It was a top issue that was really a non issue. Yet the town of Huntsville allows so many businesses in private homes that clearly do not meet the definition of what a private home was meant to be.

  6. Brian Tapley on

    I think the main distinction comes when an owner uses a commercial OTA or online travel agency (such as Air B&B along with many others).
    The occasional rental to friends or relatives is not and never has been an issue. Nor is a long term rental, like maybe if the owner gets transferred to work in Siberia for two years and needs someone to stay in and help pay for their cottage or home.
    It is the continuous rental for short terms, such as every weekend, or week over week rentals and all to essentially unknown third parties provided by the OTA’s. This is a “business” plain and simple and yet it is operating in areas that are generally zoned as “waterfront residential”.
    Operating a “business” in a “residential” zoning is generally a non starter but municipalities do not seem to enforce this rule.
    It is not just the unfair competition to existing businesses. This is a small but real part of the issue. More of an issue is if you, as a cottage buyer plunk down a couple of million dollars for your “dream waterfront retreat” and knowing it and the neighboring properties are all zoned as “residential”, you sort of expect to see the same owners next door on a week by week basis. You could be forgiven for thinking you might get to know these people and have some social interaction over the years. Your kids might become friends.
    Well guess what, you just bought an expensive cottage in the middle of an effective “Holiday Inn” where the neighbors change weekly, are seldom if ever the same, have no vested interest in the area or your happiness and contribute not much to the local economy. Their rent is sucked away to the city where the owners live and does not come back to this area except in the form of contractor fees for maintenance work and of course the ever present property taxes. Governments are addicted to these taxes just as surely as a heroin addict is to their drug. That is probably why they don’t want to mess with the cottage owners. They all get one vote, even if their principal residence is thousands of miles away and who wold want to antagonize this group?
    I have heard of one owner, from Europe, who has never even visited Muskoka, yet they own 6 cottages and have them rented out for them. The money leaves the country. There is no accounting, no tax no nothing.
    This type of activity has been very harmful in places like Venice, where essentially there are less than half the “natives” that there used to be just 10 years ago. Replaced by chain accommodation corporations which are the only entities capable of paying the high costs of ownership.
    It is getting this way here now. Show me a young family, a normal working family who can even think of owning lake shore in Muskoka. Thought so…. you will have a hard time finding such a family. they have to move to places like Uterson and Sprucedale and commute to work. Their home will be back in the forest, not on any lake at all.
    In some US coastal towns they were wondering why they could not recruit people like volunteer firemen. Investigation revealed that nearly 80% of the homes were unoccupied except for the online rentals. There were, in effect, no permanent residents left in the town so there were no volunteers for anything. Short term renters, however nice they may be personally, are not going to help out with the hospital auxiliary or fire department or anything for that matter.

    So maybe it is time to take a hard look at this trend. It is disruptive, like so many things on the internet. It does not pay much of a fair share of community support. It is actually not even legal in many zoning areas and it reduces the “community” character of the area, the very thing we are known for, one of the main reasons people want to visit our area. Maybe not a good thing!

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