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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