FAQs about STRs

In this section we answer some basic questions about the STR problem with the facts as we know them.

Short-term rentals are dwellings located in residential neighbourhoods that are used to operate businesses that provide temporary accommodations for up to 28 days. A more detailed explanation is that an STR is a temporary accommodation, lodging, board and lodging, or occupancy in a building, dwelling or dwelling unit, by way of concession, permit, lease, license, rental agreement or similar commercial arrangement for any period of 28 consecutive days or less throughout any part of a calendar year.
STRs are often referred to as ‘ghost hotels’ because they carry on business very much like a hotel, except they are largely ‘hidden’ from view. The courts have decided that short-term rentals are a hotel-like business, i.e.:

“ units being offered to complete strangers on the internet, on a repeated basis, for durations as short as a single night…. with “check in” and “check out” times, “cancellation policies”, “security deposits”, “cleaning fees”, instructions on what to do with dirty towels/sheets…”

Unlike legitimate commercial hotels there is usually no on-site manager to control bad behaviour once a reservation has been made.
The situation is very urgent because the STR operators are now attempting to overturn the prohibition in the Township’s Zoning By-law in order to legalize their operations. We need to meet this challenge by obtaining official status and participating in the upcoming Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT formerly known as the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or LPAT) proceedings that will hear the objections being brought by the STR operators. By obtaining official status at the hearing we will be able to add significant support to the Township in its efforts to have the Zoning By-law upheld. It is critical that there be a voice of the community present at the proceedings. This will help ensure that the significant problems created by disruptive STRs and the threat posed to the property owners’ safety and peaceful use and enjoyment of their homes in residential neighbourhoods are fully heard by the Tribunal.
The Chief Municipal Law Enforcement Officer for Oro Medonte stated in a report to the Township Council that,

“In 2015, MLE staff began to respond to noise complaints after hours (outside of regular business hours). Typically, responding to residential concerns related to music and/or yelling after the 11:00 pm prohibition. If required, MLE staff will call the OPP for assistance but depending on OPP’s availability officers are not always able to attend and assist MLEO staff. When MLE staff are attending these types of calls, it is important to note that they are typically late at night and require addressing a large number of individuals that have possibly been consuming alcohol or drugs raising safety concerns for staff to attend alone. … The Noise By-law has been a pressing issue over the past several years as the Township has seen an increase in the number of large-scale special events, growing concerns with residential dwellings being rented out as short-term rentals, and an increase in calls for MLEO staff to attend gatherings in residential areas.” (From a Township Report filed August 12, 2020. Boldface added for emphasis by OMGNA )

STR operators bring uninvited strangers into a neighbourhood. These strangers do not take the time to understand the by-laws of the Township whether noise, fire or parking. There is often a high turnover with new groups arriving on a frequent basis. They are not supervised by an on-site STR owner or manager. They often invite other strangers to party with them increasing the disturbances to neighbours. These strangers are not accountable like you to be respectful and get along with their neighbours. They are here for a good time and many don’t care if their activities disrupt the neighbours. You know when by-law officers are concerned about their safety, you should be concerned too.
Yes. All rental properties have the potential to be turned into a STR by the owner/operator, but they are not necessarily a STR. Short-term rentals can be a very lucrative business. Some operators are earning in excess of $100,000 per property per year. Effective and robust Zoning By-laws are the only means to stop rental properties from being turned into STRs.
No. Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs) are a highly regulated business in the Township. The Zoning By-law has provisions that allows B&Bs to operate in residential areas provided a number of conditions are met, but the operator must first apply to the Township for approval to have their property rezoned. This is a way that a legitimate business can provide temporary accommodation to visitors to our Township. Once a rezoning application is received the Township is required to notify the neighbours and give them an opportunity to communicate their objections or support for the application. The operator must also meet all applicable conditions and requirements which include, adequate onsite parking, compliance with fire and septic regulations. More significantly, a maximum of three rooms can be provided for accommodation and the operator must live on-site. None of this exists for STRs because they are illegal.
The operator of the STR, and the STR on-line marketing platforms that promotes their property, are the only ones that benefit. Neither the neighbours, nor the municipal government benefit. The operator, depending on the property, can make over $1,000 per night. Data from AirDNA indicate that several operators in Oro-Medonte are earning more than $100,000 per property per year. Even cheaper rentals can be profitable because they incur none of the major out-of-pocket costs of commercial hotels such as staff to manage guests’ safety and control behaviour. It is perverse but the neighbourhood becomes the front desk and night clerk for the STR. Some rental owners use short-term rentals to support investments in real estate that they would not be able to afford as a residential homeowner. The on-line marketing platforms make money by charging the renter and/or the operator a fee as a percentage of the cost of renting. Neighbours do not share in these profits. They lose equity in their property because no one wants to live next door to a potentially disruptive STR. In a rural township such as Oro-Medonte, there is no evidence that STRs provide employment, tourism or shopping income of any significance to support the local economy and tax base.
The owner of a property can only use that property for the purposes that are expressly permitted and listed under the local municipal zoning by-law. Decisions of the Ontario courts and regulatory tribunals have firmly enshrined the principle that residential areas are designed and intended to be non-commercial areas where people reside and that commercial areas are designed and intended as locations for business where commerce is practiced. The intent is to segregate uses to respect the impact and incompatibility that some uses may have on another. In other words, areas zoned and used for residential purposes are to be protected from incompatible commercial and industrial uses that would not normally be accepted and would be disruptive and out of character to a residential neighbourhood. Decisions by the Ontario Municipal Board (now OLT) and the Ontario courts have established that the short-term rental of a dwelling is a commercial “hotel-like” use that is not compatible with normal residential use.

The Township of Oro-Medonte has confirmed that the Township Zoning By-law does not permit a dwelling in a residential zone to be used for short-term rental purposes. In fact, in 2014 the Township defined a short term rental use of dwellings and assigned it as being permitted only in a specific mixed-use commercial/residential zone located in the resort development in Horseshoe Valley. This change was limited to this specific mixed-use commercial/residential zone. STRs are not listed as a permitted use and are therefore prohibited in all of the residential zones in the Township.
Licensing has been attempted by some municipalities but has not been effective. As observed in the Town of The Blue Mountains licensing is very costly to administer and it cannot control all of the bad behaviour. Blue Mountains has spent more than a million dollars trying to control disruptive behaviour at STRs. Here is a recent quote from the Blue Mountains Ratepayers Association newsletter that provides further support for this view.

“In the 6 years under the current Bylaw not one license has been removed for infractions, no matter how many complaints a business incurred. It appears almost impossible to make an owner fully accountable for the disruptive behaviour of the renters they have allowed to be brought into the neighbourhood.”

One license renewal was finally denied in September 2021, but it took a petition of 57 residents objecting to the renewal to get Council’s attention. These observations indicate that licensing doesn’t work. A far more cost-effective method of control is through the enforcement of existing zoning by-laws that prohibit STRs. If the operation of an STR disrupts the neighbours then the Township can shut them down. That is what Clearview, Carling, Seguin Townships and Goderich in Ontario do. It is simple, inexpensive and very effective.
The Oro-Medonte Good Neighbours Alliance main purpose is to provide a community voice for action on STRs. We are not affiliated with the Township municipal government. We support the current efforts of the Township of Oro-Medonte to uphold the current Township Zoning By-law that prohibits STRs in residential neighbourhoods. We have made submissions to the Township Council, held educational sessions for the general public, and in general provided grass-roots representation beyond that provided by elected municipal officials and staff.
When a zoning by-law is adopted, uses that existed and were legal prior to the enactment of a new zoning by-law, can lawfully continue. This is permitted under Section 34 of the Planning Act, and it is known as ‘grandfathering.’ To be grandfathered, or declared a legal non-conforming use, a use must have been in existence and legal prior to the passing of a zoning by-law that prohibited that use, and the use must have been continuous. Since the Township Zoning By-law has only permitted STRs to operate in the Horseshoe Valley resort mixed commercial/residential zone, it would not be possible for any current STR operator in a residential zone to pass these tests to obtain grandfathered status.
You might start by talking to your neighbour. If you continue to be victimized, report the STR start-up to your Ward Councillor. It is a good idea to copy the Clerk of the Township as well and address your communication to “Mayor and Council”. In this way, your report will become a part of the public record and circulated to all members of Council. The next time that you are disturbed, call Municipal Law Enforcement, the OPP and FIRE depending upon the circumstances as directed by your Ward Councillor. From a safe place, you should also record the comings and goings of visitors, noting the dates and the number of people and record the license plates if you can. Do not endanger your personal safety. This information should be reported to the Township in writing. For more information on reporting disruptive behaviour see “A Guide to Reporting an Issue at an STR” on this website. Please feel free to e-mail us a copy of your report.
No. Disruptive STRs occur across the Township, not just along the lakeshore. Disruptive rentals have been reported in Horseshoe Valley, at Sugar Bush, in crossroad communities such as Knox, in semi-rural subdivisions like Memorial Park, and in settlement areas like Warminster. There is even a reported disruptive STR operating on a farm near Jarratt. All neighbourhoods in the Township need to be protected from disruptive STRs.
A ‘special interest group’ is a term that is often used to marginalize and diminish the legitimate thoughts presented by a group of very concerned homeowners. The number of people that constitutes a ‘special interest group’ is unknown, but it is doubtful that the 1500+ people that signed the petition asking the Township to enforce our zoning by-laws can rightfully be called a special interest group. The petition overwhelmingly confirmed that resident homeowners agree that ghost hotels do not belong in residential areas and the Township should enforce its Zoning By-laws to stop the operation of disruptive short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods.

Further, it is doubtful that the Township residents’ associations including Bass Lake Oro-Medonte Ratepayers Association, Shanty Bay Residents’ Association, Oro-Station Ratepayers’ Association, Barrillia Park Ratepayers’ Association, Parkside Ratepayers’ Association, Hawkestone Ratepayers’ Association, Eight Mile Point Community Association, Maplewood/Woodland/Moon Point Ratepayers’ Association, Horseshoe Valley Property Owners Association, WORA, AWARE Oro-Medonte, and Simcoeside Ratepayers’ Association comprise a special interest group. These associations have joined together in support of the enforcement of the Township’s Zoning by-law to stop the operation of disruptive STRs. The 2,500+ people represented by these associations should not be described as a ‘special interest group’ since they represent a significant percentage of the ratepayer home owners in the Township.
Here are some facts to consider that have helped the overwhelming majority of people reach the conclusion that STRs do not belong in residentially zoned, low density, neighbourhoods:

a) Wherever short-term rentals have carried on business without regard to how their neighbours suffer, conflicts have occurred. Conflicts are strong indicators that short-term rentals do not belong. Conflicts are best avoided through good planning decisions that separate commercial uses from residential uses;

b) Homeowners in Oro-Medonte don’t want them. More than 1500 people signed a petition asking Council to enforce the existing Zoning By-law. On one street, there are three STRs that have been reported to the Township. There are 76 homes on that street and 126 people on that street signed the petition;

c) STRs devalue adjacent properties. In the Town of The Blue Mountains, the municipality tried to control short-term rental conflicts through licensing several years ago. Despite licensing requirements, neighbouring property values declined by more than 10%.

d) Even higher density condominium owners don’t want them in their buildings. Condo corporations in Blue Mountains and Horseshoe Valley have prohibited them. One condo building manager at Horseshoe Valley told Council that STRs were “the bane of my existence”;

e) Judges and adjudicators agree that STRs do not belong in low-density residential zones. The Ontario Municipal Board upheld Blue Mountains’ right to prohibit STRs in low-density residential zones. The Board concluded that there was “convincing evidence that the integrity and character of the low-density residential neighbourhoods are being undermined by the presence of STA (Short Term Accommodation) units in those areas”.
In Oro-Medonte, STRs are only permitted in a multi-unit condominium building situated in a mixed-use commercial/residential zone at the Horseshoe Valley Resort. That’s the only place that Council decided through a Zoning By-law amendment in 2014 that STRs belonged. Even in the Town of The Blue Mountains where STRs are legal, STRs have been excluded from lower density residential zones. The Ontario Municipal Board upheld the Blue Mountains STR exclusion from lower-density residential zones and called it ‘good planning’.
STRs in Oro Medonte can gross more than $25,000 per month. In 2020, even though the STR business was subdued by COVID, several STR operators grossed more than $100,000 per property per year. These operators are carrying on an illegal hotel business at the expense of their neighbours. Eliminating disruptions and intrusions upon the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the surrounding residential properties must take priority over the generation of revenue from the operation of an STR business.

The use of a residential dwelling as a short-term rental is a commercial business that brings with it the potential to conflict with the character and stability of the surrounding neighbourhoods. Disruptions due to the high turnover of people and the associated inconsiderate behaviour of many transient renters intrude upon the quiet use and enjoyment of neighbouring residential properties and leave neighbours feeling unsafe in their own homes. These are reasons that zoning by-laws restrict commercial businesses from operating in residential areas. Zoning by-laws are set up to allow commercial businesses to operate only in commercially zoned areas so that the integrity and character of residential neighbourhoods can be preserved and protected.
STRs bear no resemblance to old-time cottage rentals. Traditional cottage rentals were not typically a problem in Oro-Medonte until the big anonymous Internet platforms came along. These platforms promote and encourage the commercialization and industrialization of our residential neighbourhoods by creating as many STRs as possible in residential zones. This had led to a proliferation of STRs with high turnovers of large groups of transient visitors who are unknown and essentially anonymous, even to the STR operator. Inevitably, this leads to unresolvable conflicts with the neighbourhood residents.

In Oro-Medonte, the days of old-time cottages are just about over. People are knocking down traditional cottages and putting up much larger four-season homes. Our neighbourhoods now are increasingly becoming full-time residential communities and are no longer seasonal. Trying to create an exception for the ‘casual rental’ would severely weaken our Zoning By-law at a time when such land uses are rapidly disappearing. Further, weakening our Zoning By-law is completely contrary to what our Mayor and Council have set out to do, and that is to make our Zoning By-law ‘iron clad’. If such an exception were created then our zoning by-law would be almost impossible to enforce. All STRs, including those that disrupt, would claim to be a ‘casual rental’ and the Township would not be able to prove otherwise. We don’t need to weaken our Zoning By-law. We only need enforcement when there are disruptions – if there are no complaints then there is no need for enforcement.
If STRs are legalized, it can only be done through a zoning by-law amendment. Once an STR use is legalized and an STR opens for business, it is, for all practical purposes, here forever. New short-term rentals can be stopped by changing/withdrawing the zoning by-law but you will be stuck with the STRs that were operating when the zoning by-law change was made. Therefore, legalization is a bad idea as it would have a permanent negative impact upon our residential neighbourhoods. As well, the municipality would also be stuck with the costs of having to regulate such “legal non-conforming” commercial activities at your expense.
STR operators are now attempting to overturn the Township’s robust Zoning By-law that prohibits STRs. We need to meet this challenge by participating in the upcoming Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) proceedings that will hear the objections being brought by the STR operators. Despite the objections of the STR operators, Oro-Medonte Good Neighbours Alliance Inc. was granted “party status” on February 17, 2021. This means that we will be able to fully participate in the hearing, represent the voices of concerned residents, and support the Township in its efforts to have the Zoning By-law upheld.

It is the intent of Good Neighbours to ensure that evidence from those individuals who have experienced the damage first-hand is heard. As well, it is the intent of Good Neighbours to point to the many people who have signed the petition opposed to STRs and who have joined their voices behind their residents’ associations in objecting to the illegal use of residential property. We need your help to do this.

It is critical that there be a voice of the community and of individual residents present at the OLT proceedings to ensure that the significant problems created by disruptive STRs and the threat they create to the peaceful use and enjoyment of homes in residential neighbourhoods are fully heard by the Tribunal. Paying for legal representation and associated costs will be expensive, but it is a necessary cost of protecting our homes and our neighbourhoods, so please help us by contributing to this common cause. Click here to contribute.
This began with a follow-up question from a resident of Oro-Medonte:

“I do have to confess that I don’t really understand why it is the residents are being asked to finance the lawyer to defend a town by-law. The Town made the by-law presumably after consulting with their own lawyer so the Town should be defending its action. The Town should not have to go cap in hand to the associations/residents to get a lawyer to fight the STR owners.”

Our response:

An excellent question which addresses why the Good Neighbour’s Alliance exists and why we are paying for a lawyer at considerable expense to represent homeowners at OLT in addition to what the Township is doing.

To be clear, the Township Council did not ask the Alliance to join with them. They have their own lawyers paid with your tax dollars. The various residents’ associations realize that if the problem of disruptive STRs in Oro-Medonte is to be solved there needs to be the voices of the residents at the table – voices that will hold the Township accountable. It is not an expense any individual homeowner wishes to incur but this is the price, unfortunately, we must collectively pay. There are a number of reasons why the Alliance needs to be directly involved in order to represent you.

First, over the last three years the public record shows that Township Council has considered various approaches to STRs, including creating a licencing regime which would allow STRs to operate in any residential neighbourhood. Other townships have tried licencing but it is expensive and it has not been an effective solution to stop STRs from disrupting residential neighbourhoods. In 2019 Oro-Medonte residents overwhelmingly rejected the licencing option proposed by Council.

The STR operators have indicated at preliminary OLT proceedings that they want to negotiate with the Township in order to have STRs licenced and allow them to continue to operate in residential neighborhoods, essentially overturning the existing by-laws. The Township needs to be reminded that these options continue to be unacceptable and that there is no negotiation of the laws that protect the safety of our neighborhoods and property values.

Second, legal and planning experts have told us that OLT hearings with substantial resident representation have a much better chance of success. The voices of residents at the hearing can provide the direct accounts of the disruptions caused by STRs to neighbours and can refute the inevitable claims to the contrary by the STR operators. This is not something that the Township will be able to do as effectively or with the impact that can be brought by a group of residents voicing these realities directly to the OLT members who will make the decision. Having the Alliance collectively represent residents is the most efficient and effective means of ensuring that residents are heard by OLT and will increase the likelihood that OLT will uphold the Township’s by-laws.

Third, we have been working closely with twelve residents’ associations across the Township. All of these Associations supported the Alliance in becoming an official Party to the OLT hearing in order to represent the interests of concerned residents. Pooling together the interests of the various neighborhood associations adds significant weight and credibility to the residents’ voice.

Fourth, the STR operators have significant resources and can use the profits from their illegal operations to prolong the OLT legal process. Having the Alliance collectively represent residents is by far the most efficient way to handle the significant expense of resident representation at the OLT hearing and minimize the expense for individual homeowners.

Finally, the STR operators are essentially challenging the Township’s right to reasonably and properly maintain residential zones which are separate and free from conflicting and incompatible commercial uses. This is a fundamental principle that must be vigilantly protected. Like you, the volunteers who make up the Alliance are homeowners who do not want homes and families put at risk or property values reduced by the operation of disruptive STRs in our residential neighbourhoods.

Please contribute to protect our neighbourhoods so that yours is not next. Too many neighbourhoods and families have already suffered from the spread of STRs, we cannot permit STR growth to commercialize our neighbourhoods and ruin our communities. This is a fight that we can and must win. Your children and your grandchildren will be pleased you did.

See What is Being Done About STRs in Oro-Medonte