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Airbnb Rules in Collingwood, Blue Mountain and area

Posted by Sherry Rioux on April 18, 2017
23 Comments

airbThere are about 300 Airbnb units being advertised for rent in the Collingwood-Blue Mountain area.  What may surprise you is that most of these are an illegal use.  We’ll get to that in a moment but first some food for thought.

About Airbnb

In this new age of the “sharing economy”, services such as Airbnb have gained traction very quickly. According to the company, there are currently about 15,000 active Airbnb hosts in Ontario, including 8,600 in Toronto.

An Airbnb report released in September 2016 highlighted positive factors about the company saying that everyday people are being helped to make ends meet, and that it is an affordable way to travel and live like a local. What they don’t talk about are the downsides.

The Concerns

Not surprisingly, the hotel industry has fought against the program on the basis that these units are in fact commercial units but they are not paying commercial tax rates in many cases.  In fact, how many owners are reporting their Airbnb income at all?  While hotels must meet certain standards such as cleanliness and safety, private homes are rarely subjected to the same scrutiny.

Many home owners who participate in the Airbnb program, are not aware that in most cases, their home owner insurance policy does not cover the rental usage and, there are also issues that can arise around liability. 

A growing area of concern is about the practice of renting these short term units out in condominiums.  In many cases, condo rules prohibit occupation by third parties and for short term periods.  A landmark ruling in December regarding condos being used for short term rentals  is worth reading if you’ve been thinking of taking the chance.

Regulations Are Coming.  With all of this, municipalities in Ontario are starting to look at developing new regulations around the short term accommodation industry.

What You Can and Can’t Do In Southern Georgian Bay

So, let’s look at the local situation here in Southern Georgian Bay.  In a well publicized and heavily challenged decision, the Town of the Blue Mountains was one of the first municipalities to tackle the issue head on by developing regulations around short term rental accommodation.  This was driven by years of complaints from residential property owners who had issues with garbage, noise, parties and such.  The thinking is that these uses are not compatible in many cases with a predominantly residential neighbourhood.  As a result, the Blue Mountains now has a complex licensing program for short term rental accommodations and owners wishing to do an Airbnb type use, must first obtain a licence to do so.  Details can be found here. 

In Collingwood, the only short term accommodation allowed in a residential zone is a Bed & Breakfast.  The B & B definition is in the Collingwood Zoning By-law and its provisions are found in General Provision 4.25 found on page 4-6 of this document.  Note that it generally requires that the owner live in the property and that food can be served.  When we asked the town how this is enforced, the reply is that it is complaint driven.  The Town will then first seek voluntary compliance by the owner to cease the use failing which they turn to prosecution.

In Wasaga Beach, the Zoning By-law only permits short-term accommodation (rental for less than 30 days) in Tourist Commercial (CT) and Tourist Accommodation (CA) Zones. Short-term rentals are not permitted in Residential Zones. These accommodations must be licensed under the Town’s Business Licensing By-law, which is managed by the Town’s Municipal Law Enforcement Department. The rules are similar to Collingwood and fall under the Bed and Breakfast category which can be found here starting on page 124.

In Clearview Township, short term rentals are also considered to be a Bed and Breakfast  which are permitted in the Agricultural and Rural Zones only.  Other zones require a zoning by-law amendment.  The Zoning By-law requires that the dwelling shall be occupied by the owner or tenant when guest rooms are available to the travelling public.  So if the Airbnb does meet these and the other standard requirements of the zoning by-law then it is not legally operating.

While we have not had any response to our formal queries from the Town of Meaford, I do know they are far less stringent on this topic and generally, it would appear from their Zoning By-law, that an Airbnb type use would be permitted with certain criteria being met as shown in the bylaw found here and starting on page 62.

The Bottom Line

If you are purchasing a property or own one in our region and are assuming you can run an Airbnb, you are going to be in for a surprise.  You’ll need to comply with the zoning requirements of the municipality and in most cases, your use is not easily permitted. It’s important to consult with the municipality before proceeding.

23 thoughts on “Airbnb Rules in Collingwood, Blue Mountain and area

  • Paula
    on January 23, 2018

    To whom it may concern. Before our B&B open, ten years ago, our house, that we purchased for the business, had to comply with zoning by-law.
    We applied, our applications was discussed at the town’s meeting, our neighbours were invited to forward their opinion. When everyone was in agreement, we paid fee of $1200 for the rezoning, and obtained a business licence. We pay applicable taxes, extended liability insurance for our guests, and file business income tax.
    The Airbnb ‘s in Meaford are excluded from the above requirements we had and have to comply with. We welcome a healthy business competition, an Airbnb is not a healthy competition, changes need to be made. Let’s work together fairly.
    Thank you
    Paula

  • Marg
    on January 24, 2018

    Thanks for your interesting comment Paula and it is certainly a valid perspective.

  • Mark
    on February 7, 2018

    While I understand that some airbnb renters are poorly behaved, which can result in above-average noise levels, the majority are respectable, responsible young people looking for alternative accommodation to expensive, traditional, and out of touch hotels.

    The Collingwood/Blue Mountain by-laws should become more flexible for those looking to operate top-notch “superhost” airbnb rentals to provide quality accommodation and drive tourism. The more it tries to keep these airbnb operators and renters out, the more they will flock to other municipalities and spend their money, like Prince Edward County. It is inevitable that airbnb and other areas of the sharing economy will become the norm and that these by-laws are trying desperately to cling to the past.

    My wife and I were looking into buying a property in Collingwood/Blue Mountain and rent it out on a weekend here and there, but given these stringent by-laws we will likely look at other municipalities that are more welcoming, and see the benefit to the economy in finding a happy medium with short term rentals.

  • Marg
    on February 7, 2018

    Thanks for your comment Mark. It’s a challenging issue with multiple facets. There are concerns about the changing nature of residential neighbourhoods, about reduced availablity of rental units, impacts on commercial resort operators, condo rules and regulations, etc. In our area, at least in the Town of Blue Mountains, they’ve passed a bylaw that does not prohibit them but rather regulates where and how they can operate. Other municipalities, like some in the GTA and soon more in Ontario, are looking at doing the same. You may be interested to know that Prince Edward County is starting the review process as well and even points to the Town of the Blue Mountains as an example. You can read the PEC staff report here: https://princeedwardcounty.civicweb.net/FileStorage/3E9BAE3876374C41BC03477C755C3B8E-Final%20Report%20and%20Attachments.pdf Thanks again for your comment.

  • Michael
    on February 22, 2018

    I purchased a condo in Cranberry, Collingwood with commercial zoning. The building permits short term rentals. There are only a handful of these types of properties available. Look for C3-5 Zoning when you are shopping for real estate.

  • Marg
    on February 22, 2018

    You are 100% correct Michael and good for you to have obtained a unit. That building is the only one in Collingwood that permits short term rentals due to its commercial zoning and I’ve sold several in it despite it’s small size. Of course, it is also possible in any building with commercial zoning where hotels are permitted.

  • Brandi
    on February 27, 2018

    Thanks for your comments Mark. Unfortunately, the facts and current property owners in these townships do not support allowing short term rental. Tourism is at an all-time high here. Many of our neighbours are vacation property owners like us but many are not. For the people who call this home, the last thing they want is short term rentals. The reality is if you want to purchase a property in the area, then you do so knowing short term rentals are not permitted.

  • on May 31, 2018

    It’s a challenging task these days to get a commercial property on lease. These rules are an eye opener for both the renters and tenants. Visit https://www.strategicgroup.ca/commercial/

  • Ken
    on August 4, 2018

    Maybe one day Collingwood & Blue will join the 21st century and not have development and progress stifled by whinging retirees.

    The whole area has huge potential, wasted due to the griping of rich old retirees unwilling to see past their own desires.

    Such a shame, this area could be so much more, and a hub of new economy innovation. Maybe in 10- 20 years with the influx of new residents, the old guard will lose their grip on power and things will change.

  • Marg
    on August 5, 2018

    Those are interesting comments Ken and I’m curious to know why you feel that way and what is your vision for change? Collingwood and area has actually done very, very well. Unemployment rates are super low, it’s continually an award-winning area for lifestyle and business and, it seems there is endless demand from people wanting to live in the area. Property values have risen above provincial averages, development is at an all-time high and vacancy rates at an all-time low. Contrary to popular belief, a large percentage of the newcomers to the area are not retirees but rather, young families and entrepreneurs relocating to the area for lifestyle reasons. The percentage of newcomers now outweighs the “old guard” and they have indeed brought new vibrancy, new businesses and new energy to the area. All of these do add up to a healthy community so I am most curious to know why you feel this way and what your ideas are for the future.

  • sam
    on August 17, 2018

    Hi,
    I read your article on Airbnb and found it very informative. Thank you for taking the time to do that.
    I have a question, I am curious to know how you concluded that in the Township of Clearview that short term rentals are only allowed in Agricultural and Rural Zoning? I quickly read through their bylaws and couldn’t see anything that clearly stated “short term rentals”

    Thank you in advance

  • Marg
    on August 17, 2018

    Hi Sam and thanks for your kind comments. Clearview doesn’t allow Airbnb but rather, they consider them to be Bed and Breakfasts as I mention in the post so an owner would need to comply with those provisions. You can find them in section 2.3, page 40 of the zoning bylaw at http://clearviewplanning.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/consolidated_copy_of_zoning_by-law_06-54-july-16-20152.pdf This is where the reference to the allowable zones comes from. If you wanted to do an absentee owner airbnb use, you can’t. The only area even close to us where is may be permitted would be in Meaford but as this is a revolving issue in all areas across the country, you would be best to speak to the planning department there for any updates. In the Town of Blue Mountains, in can be done in a limited area and with a licence. In Collingwood, it can only happen in a property that has commercial zoning that permits a hotel use. I hope that helps.

  • lynn
    on August 28, 2018

    So to my understanding from you information is the Collingwood does not permit short term rentals in residential areas, can you please tell me what short term rental is exactly 6 month and under?

  • Marg
    on August 28, 2018

    Hi Lynn. You are correct that Collingwood does not permit short-term rentals in residential areas. Short term is defined as anything 30 days or less. Seasonal or annual rentals are no problem. If the use is in a condo though, the condo may have some restrictions on the number of rentals permitted per year. I hope that helps to clarify.

  • Ryan
    on February 19, 2019

    This was a very informative article. However I’m confused about the legal status of AirBnBs inside the town of Thornbury. It’s technically in the town of Blue Mountains but not inside Collingwood or Clearview. Curious if you have any insight into this.

  • Matt
    on February 26, 2019

    I run an Air BNB in Beaver Valley, but I am looking at buying a property in the Town of The Blue Mountains, where should I be looking? Are there permitted zones?

  • Marg Scheben-Edey, Broker
    on February 27, 2019

    Hi Matt. There is a very limited area where they are permitted which is directly around the village at Blue Mountain and even with that, there are additional requirements such as not being located within 120 meters of another one. It’s exceedingly difficult these days to find anything that fits and when one does come up for sale, there tend to be competing offers and the prices make it difficult to run with a profit. You can have a look at the Town website at https://www.thebluemountains.ca/short-term-accommodations.cfm I hope that helps.

  • Marg Scheben-Edey, Broker
    on February 27, 2019

    Hi Ryan. The only units permitted in the Town of Collingwood are ones an area that is commercially zoned and permits hotel uses. Some of the ones you see online are in such areas and many are not legal. Also, you will see ones that are actually in the Town of Blue Mountains (not Collingwood) showing up on the same AirBnb pages depending how you have searched and some people confuse the two municipalities. Have a look at this post: https://collingwood-bluemountain.com/airbnb-not-permitted-in-collingwood/

  • Marg Scheben-Edey, Broker
    on February 28, 2019

    I don’t think any are permitted in the Town of Thornbury which is in the Town of Blue Mountain unless they were grandfathered from before the bylaw came into effect.

  • Susan Jagminas
    on May 12, 2019

    Good article. Thanks for this

  • Justin Somers
    on June 6, 2019

    This comment is absolutely spot on!

  • Nataliya
    on November 28, 2019

    Hello.I need experts help.I wish to buy property for short term rent.I ‘m looking for townhouses or condo for such purposes.But suddenly, came to the conclusion, after speaking with managements of some condo corporations regarding this rent, and they said just 90 days or more.I am in frustration.I want to buy license and getting for the rules.But on any step in this direction there is an obstacle.How it’s possible to get properties for really short term rent(from 3 to 10 days)?

  • Marg Scheben-Edey, Broker
    on November 29, 2019

    Short term rentals are only permitted in a very limited number of areas in Blue Mountain. Have a read through the many posts on this blog for links and details. It is not easy to find such properties and prices are now quite high due to demand.

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