Short-term Rental Zoning By-law Amendment

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Changes are being proposed to how the City considers and regulates short-term rentals, such as those advertised using AirBnB, but first we want to hear from you!

Staff have been collecting information and input on short-term rentals (STRs) since 2019, and are now preparing to bring forward proposed amendments to the Zoning By-law to better address short-term rental use. During October an online open house was held to address questions from the public and gather more feedback.

With the open house completed, a Public Meeting on proposed amendments to the City's Zoning By-law related to short-term rentals has been scheduled for the Nov. 16, 2020 electronic meeting of City Council.

Review the public notice for more information on the public meeting.

What is a short-term rental?

In this case short-term rental applies to dwellings where:

  • The unit is rented for no more than 28 days
  • The entire dwelling unit is rented
  • The owner is not on premises during the rental period

This type of use is often advertised using various online platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO and Flipkey.

Currently STRs as defined above, are not permitted in residential areas.

Other rental properties

These STRs differ from other properties where rental is provided on a short-term basis.

Hotels and motels also offer rentals for periods of no more than 28 days with rental accommodations functioning as the primary use on site. These operations are permitted in certain commercial, mixed-use and employment zones.

Bed and breakfasts are similar to STRs in that they offer accommodation for up to 28 days. Unlike STRs however, bed and breakfast owners / operators remain on site during the rental period, renting individual rooms to patrons. Bed and breakfasts are permitted in residential zones as home-based businesses.

STR Zoning By-law Amendment objectives

Following public input in late 2019 Council requested amendments to the Zoning By-law as it relates to STRs in response to concerns over their impact on housing stock, property values, noise complaints and other problematic behaviour. In the previous staff report, considered by Council on February 24, 2020, five goals were identified for consideration when addressing short-term rental use:

  • Protect the housing supply
  • Support opportunities for supplementary income
  • Provide reasonable enforcement options
  • Protect residential neighborhood character
  • Support tourism and tourist spending in St. Catharines

Balancing these diverse needs staff have reviewed previous public input, best practices and the current zoning by-law to develop a framework that will better address STR use alongside bed and breakfast operations.

What's changing?

In short the proposed Zoning By-law Amendment allows for some STR operations in residential areas provided they aren't the primary use of the property. The property must operate first and foremost as a full-time residence, with the resident temporarily renting out the entire dwelling unit on an occasional basis. The property cannot function solely as a STR; ensuring the housing stock is not impacted, while still allowing for individuals to generate supplementary income when away from home and provide accommodations for visiting guests.

This is being done by:

  • Defining STRs as home based businesses wherein a dwelling unit is rented for a period not exceeding 28 consecutive days
  • Requiring that a STR be the primary residence of the operator (owner / tenant)
  • Allowing home-based businesses to operate in any dwelling unit instead of the current limitation to only principal dwelling units; home-based businesses are still only permitted as secondary use for the properties they occupy
  • Requiring the provision of an additional 0.5 parking spaces for each bedroom being rented
  • Expanding bed and breakfast permissions to all dwelling types, provided the property owner / operator remains on site alongside guests


What's next?

Please provide your feedback under the Questions and Input tab below, it will help guide us on our next steps. In November, following a public meeting, Council will review the proposed amendments and vote to accept / reject them. Feedback can also be sent via email to ShortTermRental@stcatharines.ca.

Based on the decision of Council, staff will proceed to draft licencing for STRs allowing for improved enforcement and regulatory efforts.

Changes are being proposed to how the City considers and regulates short-term rentals, such as those advertised using AirBnB, but first we want to hear from you!

Staff have been collecting information and input on short-term rentals (STRs) since 2019, and are now preparing to bring forward proposed amendments to the Zoning By-law to better address short-term rental use. During October an online open house was held to address questions from the public and gather more feedback.

With the open house completed, a Public Meeting on proposed amendments to the City's Zoning By-law related to short-term rentals has been scheduled for the Nov. 16, 2020 electronic meeting of City Council.

Review the public notice for more information on the public meeting.

What is a short-term rental?

In this case short-term rental applies to dwellings where:

  • The unit is rented for no more than 28 days
  • The entire dwelling unit is rented
  • The owner is not on premises during the rental period

This type of use is often advertised using various online platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO and Flipkey.

Currently STRs as defined above, are not permitted in residential areas.

Other rental properties

These STRs differ from other properties where rental is provided on a short-term basis.

Hotels and motels also offer rentals for periods of no more than 28 days with rental accommodations functioning as the primary use on site. These operations are permitted in certain commercial, mixed-use and employment zones.

Bed and breakfasts are similar to STRs in that they offer accommodation for up to 28 days. Unlike STRs however, bed and breakfast owners / operators remain on site during the rental period, renting individual rooms to patrons. Bed and breakfasts are permitted in residential zones as home-based businesses.

STR Zoning By-law Amendment objectives

Following public input in late 2019 Council requested amendments to the Zoning By-law as it relates to STRs in response to concerns over their impact on housing stock, property values, noise complaints and other problematic behaviour. In the previous staff report, considered by Council on February 24, 2020, five goals were identified for consideration when addressing short-term rental use:

  • Protect the housing supply
  • Support opportunities for supplementary income
  • Provide reasonable enforcement options
  • Protect residential neighborhood character
  • Support tourism and tourist spending in St. Catharines

Balancing these diverse needs staff have reviewed previous public input, best practices and the current zoning by-law to develop a framework that will better address STR use alongside bed and breakfast operations.

What's changing?

In short the proposed Zoning By-law Amendment allows for some STR operations in residential areas provided they aren't the primary use of the property. The property must operate first and foremost as a full-time residence, with the resident temporarily renting out the entire dwelling unit on an occasional basis. The property cannot function solely as a STR; ensuring the housing stock is not impacted, while still allowing for individuals to generate supplementary income when away from home and provide accommodations for visiting guests.

This is being done by:

  • Defining STRs as home based businesses wherein a dwelling unit is rented for a period not exceeding 28 consecutive days
  • Requiring that a STR be the primary residence of the operator (owner / tenant)
  • Allowing home-based businesses to operate in any dwelling unit instead of the current limitation to only principal dwelling units; home-based businesses are still only permitted as secondary use for the properties they occupy
  • Requiring the provision of an additional 0.5 parking spaces for each bedroom being rented
  • Expanding bed and breakfast permissions to all dwelling types, provided the property owner / operator remains on site alongside guests


What's next?

Please provide your feedback under the Questions and Input tab below, it will help guide us on our next steps. In November, following a public meeting, Council will review the proposed amendments and vote to accept / reject them. Feedback can also be sent via email to ShortTermRental@stcatharines.ca.

Based on the decision of Council, staff will proceed to draft licencing for STRs allowing for improved enforcement and regulatory efforts.

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

Please provide us with any questions or feedback you may have regarding proposed amendments to the zoning by-law related to short-term rentals

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    How is this to be monitored and if a STR is primarily occupied by a tenant - how does that change the free for all that’s happening now? Someone can “tenant” part of the building and still use the rest as a STR. I propose that STR ONLY be allowed when it is a primary residence. ...as that was the whole point of the sharing economy.

    AJH asked about 2 months ago

    Hi AJH, 

    The Zoning By-law Amendment proposes to permit short-term rental use as a home based business, provided the unit being offered for STR is the operator/hosts primary residence. This allows every resident in the opportunity to offer their unit for STR regardless of if they own or rent their unit. To operate a STR, the operator/host must demonstrate that the unit they offer for STR is their primary residence.

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    Why are you even considering making short term rentals illegal?

    Sheila asked about 2 months ago

    Hi Sheila, 

    Short-term rentals, where the resident is not present on site, are not currently permitted in residential zones. The Zoning By-law Amendment proposes to allow short-term rental use as a home based business, when certain conditions have been met (i.e. must be the residents' primary residence, comply with parking requirements etc.).


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    Hi, I have a Bed and Breakfast, I do live onsite. It is a rural property, zoned Ag. Will these changes affect my business?

    CherylB asked about 2 months ago

    Hi CherylB, 

    Bed and Breakfasts are currently permitted to operate from any detached dwelling, including within the Agriculture Zone (subject to various zoning provisions, such as parking requirements) and will continue to be permitted as a home based business. The only change to bed and breakfasts being proposed by the Zoning By-law Amendment is to allow bed and breakfasts to operate from additional dwelling types (e.g. semi-detached, townhouses. triplex etc.).

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    I live in the Cole Farm subdivision and the house across the street from me is being rented out - the main floor has a permanent tenant and the basement is being rented out as a short term rental. The owner of the property does not live in the home. What would this type of rental be designated as? Is this type of rental currently breaking our city bylaw? We have not had any problems, as of yet, but the neighbours are concerned with the increased amount of traffic and street parking.

    Peter Dirks asked about 2 months ago

    Hi Peter, 

    In this situation, it depends if the basement is its own unit or if there are just rooms in the basement that are being rented to guests. 

    If the basement is an independent unit: renting the unit out as a short-term rental is not permitted by the City's current by-law.

    If the house is one unit, and rooms in the basement are offered for short-term rental: this is permitted by the City's current by-law as a bed and breakfast, provided the resident is present (the resident can be a tenant and is not required to be the property owner).

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    How would you stop people from making a lot of noise either running machines for their business or bringing in other loud things like musical instruments, animals, loud people, etc.? This may especially affect people in structures that are not fully detached.

    Karen K. asked about 2 months ago

    Hi Karen K, 

    With regards to noise and home based businesses, the City's Zoning By-law currently prescribes that no machinery or processes which emit noise, vibration, glare, fumes, odour, dust, radio, television or telecommunication transmission interference beyond the premises are permitted in conjunction with a home based business (Section 2.2.4 b) of Zoning By-law 2013-283).

    The City has additional existing by-laws in place to address issues such as noise, parking and property standards, which continue to apply. Excessive noise/partying often requires an immediate response. For such complaints residents should contact the Niagara Regional Police Service (905.688.4111) who can immediately address the issue.

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    What type of amount would we be talking about for licensing these short term rentals.

    Beth asked about 2 months ago

    Hi Beth, 

    Staff are currently considering options for licensing and registration programs. We intend to develop a few options, including various fee structures, and bring them forward in the near future for Council and the public to consider. 

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    What is the value of a licensing fee and will the fee structure be a flat fee or a sliding scale?

    Port Weller Resident asked about 2 months ago

    Hi Port Weller Resident, 

    Staff are currently considering options for licensing and registration programs. We intend to develop a few options, including various fee structures, and bring them forward in the near future for Council and the public to consider.

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    Can you please confirm that a license with rules and regulations will be required to operate both a short term rental home based business, owner present (B&B) and short term rental no owner present ('airbnb'). How are you planning to enforce the proposed bylaw?

    Keldo asked about 2 months ago

    Hi Keldo, 

    Staff are currently considering options for licensing and registration programs. We intend to develop a few options and bring them forward in the near future for Council and the public to consider. 

    The Zoning By-law Amendment proposes changes to the City's existing Zoning By-law. At this time, there are no proposed changes to the way the Zoning By-law is enforced. 

    As with all zoning concerns, residents who believe a STR is operating in their neighbourhood in contravention of the City’s Zoning By-laws can report the property to the City. Staff will follow up with an investigation into every allegation, and, depending on its findings, owners can be prosecuted, and possibly penalized with a fine set by a judge of up to $5,000. Individuals can report STRs for by-law noncompliance via our Zone Land Use Infraction Form. Reports can also be filed with the City by calling Citizen’s First at 905.688.5600. 

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    How will the new ammendments be inforced as present Bylaw officers do not work weekends (which is when most Short Tem rentals are for), and as long as the people in the home to do not say they are renting nothing can be done. I see that a 0.5 parking per bedroom but what constutes a bedroom, our neighbour does not reside in this home (a bungalow) that he advertises 16 people can stay.

    PJW asked 2 months ago

    Hello PJW, 

    Thank you for your questions. 

    At this time, no changes are proposed to the way the City's Zoning By-law is enforced (i.e. staff working hours). Residents who believe a STR is operating in their neighbourhood in contravention of the City’s Zoning By-laws can report the property to the City. Staff will follow up with an investigation into every allegation, and, depending on its findings, owners can be prosecuted, and possibly penalized with a fine set by a judge of up to $5,000. Individuals can report STRs for by-law noncompliance via our Zone Land Use Infraction Form. Reports can also be filed with the City by calling Citizen’s First at 905.688.5600. 

    In addition to the proposed Zoning By-law Amendment, staff are also considering options for a licensing program to address STR use, including approvals and enforcement. Additional methods of enforcement may be established through the future Licensing By-law. Staff intend to bring forward various licensing options for further review and discussion in the near future.

    With regards to your question about bedrooms and the number of guests, we could certainly look at tying the number of bedrooms and associated parking spaces to a maximum number of guests permitted.

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    What fines will be applied to owners that do not live in the dwelling and continue to operate as a Short Term Rental. The properties in our area are rented for such high fees that a fine of $5,000 once a year would be considered the cost of doing business. I would also like to know how a 6 bedroom, 6 bathroom oversize house gets a building permit approved in Port Wellar East as this new dwelling does not conform in size to anything in the neighbourhood as as the same owners already own 3 other successful Short Term Rentals it is obvious this is their proposed use. If there are not significant fines and applied by the city these uses will continue.

    Niagarapear asked 2 months ago

    Hi Niagarapear, 

    Residents who believe a STR is operating in their neighbourhood in contravention of the City’s Zoning By-laws can report the property to the City. Staff will follow up with an investigation into every allegation, and, depending on its findings, owners can be prosecuted, and possibly penalized with a fine set by a judge of up to $5,000. Individuals can report STRs for by-law noncompliance via our Zone Land Use Infraction Form. Reports can also be filed with the City by calling Citizen’s First at 905.688.5600.

    In addition to the proposed Zoning By-law Amendment, staff are also considering options for a licensing program to address STR use. Additional penalties, including possible fines, may be established through the future Licensing By-law. Staff intend to bring forward various licensing options for further review and discussion in the near future.

    Building permits can only be issued when a proposed structure complies with the City's Zoning By-law. A detached dwelling is not limited to a maximum number of bedrooms or bathrooms and staff cannot withhold a building permit based on a suspicion of how a building may or may not be used. If, once constructed, there is evidence that a dwelling is being used in contravention of the City's Zoning By-law, then a report can be made to City staff for further investigation.