Lisa Gervais: Short-term rentals hit a nerve
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | January 19, 2017
Our coverage on short-term rentals in last week’s edition has certainly touched a nerve across the county.
For the most part, we’ve heard from people who thought our coverage was one-sided. They believe we are pandering to people who aren’t fans of short-term rentals, and particularly of sites such as Airbnb.
That certainly wasn’t what we were trying to do.
We reported on what was said at a public municipal meeting. For the most part, people there expressed concerns about online short-term rental sites. A representative of the local cottage rental industry mostly agreed that online rental agencies do not enforce the same standards as his and other local firms.
There weren’t too many Airbnb hosts in the crowd but, fortunately, a few of them contacted us this week.
One told us that short-term rental listings, through agencies and on international websites, market the Highlands and draw people here from around the world without costing Haliburton County a cent in advertising costs. She said short-term rentals offer a unique accommodation experience; in parts of the Highlands where accommodations are limited, short-term rentals fill a void; from a retailer point of view, short-term rentals bring good fortune and prosperity; and for cottagers trying to pay their municipal taxes, short-term rentals are a blessing.
A businessman spoke on behalf of people who depend on this industry, saying “the short-term crowd are some of the biggest spending tourists and we need every dollar we can get.”
He said it’s a cottage owner’s right to do with his or her property as they see fit.
We don’t disagree…which is why the front-page story had some 16 lines of text about how short-term rentals are an important part of our economy. We also stressed that in our editorial. And, incidentally, five of the five people we polled for our Eye on the Street said they like sites such as Airbnb and would rent from them.
The best feedback was from a man who uses Airbnb to rent his place and does what we have asked councils to do – ensure the people who are renting aren’t causing any problems – because in some cases they are.
He said he personally has had no problems. He vets people who ask to rent, even if he doesn’t meet them beforehand. He checks their ‘reviews’ and, if not satisfied, refuses the rental. He insists on knowing how many people will be staying and charges them on a sliding scale. They have house rules and tell the renters to abide by them. He gets a neighbor to check in. He also tells neighbours to contact them directly if there is a problem.
“We are responsible for what happens at our cottage and do not want to cause problems for others,” he said.
All indications are that our local cottage rental agencies are just as vigilant, if not more.
Alas, considerate people and professional businesses such as these are not the problem. Nobody is saying that they are.
But, as it is with driving, just because you – or even most people – obey the rules of the road, doesn’t mean we don’t need them. That’s what rules are for – to bring those who don’t quite have or care about common sense and consideration into line.
In a nutshell, that’s all we’re asking for.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.