Township hires private eye to expose illegal short-term rentals


Bylaw head says a private investigator ‘can rent a property, obtain receipts, document communications, take interior photos and even photocopy’ the property’s manual

Bylaw enforcement was busy in Tiny Township during the final quarter of last year, but so too was an unorthodox agent working to identify illegal short-term rentals.

Throughout the past few years, Tiny has struggled with short term rentals on all sides of the discussion. Frustrated residents living next to ‘ghost hotels’ run by unavailable rental owners have voiced their concerns, while responsible short-term rental owners have challenged the municipality on being able to rent their vacant spaces.

A task force helped the municipality craft a bylaw in 2022 to regulate short-term rentals, which required a stringent set of rules for a participant to be able to operate a short-term rental; these allowed the municipality to look at septic capacity and fire-occupancy safety to help with registration, enforcement and annual permitted use.

A 2023 municipal bylaw law enforcement activity report spanning Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 was presented to the Tiny committee of the whole at a recent meeting.

Acknowledging that resident concerns frequently cite a perceived lack of pro-active work by bylaw when it comes to controlling “flagrant violations of short-term rentals,” Coun. Steffen Walma asked for staff to “share a little bit about our undercover operations” as noted in the report.

Chief municipal law enforcement officer Steve Harvey said: “We highlighted a new initiative; a proposal brought forward to (chief administrative officer Robert Lamb) for approval whereby our township asked our lawyer to retain the services of a private investigator to review a short term rental matter.”

“One of the neat tools of a private investigator: they can rent a property, obtain receipts, document communications, take interior photos, and even photocopy the manual that a property may have out,” said Harvey. “It’s something that happens very rarely in our business, but it is a tool that can be used in circumstances that warrant such a thing.”

While Tiny has implemented a demerit system which penalizes short-term rental owners and may revoke their license given enough points against, unlicenced short-term rentals are deemed illegal and may face criminal charges.

Harvey stated that through the additional support of the private investigator, the municipality received “significant new information” using the evidence which further supported previous charges before the court within the fourth quarter of last year. 

“I appreciate the initiative that staff put forward on this,” said Walma. “We’ve heard time and again that there are definitely problem properties — there are lots that are in compliance and work with the municipality — and we are trying to get to the bottom of the ones that are creating the problems.”

A short-term rental page is located on the Tiny Township website for interested parties to access general information and contacts regarding short-term rentals. Within the site is an interactive map of short-term licenced applications throughout the township, kept updated as licence applications are approved. Due to the large number of short-term rentals recognized during the construction of the bylaw, an upper limit of 300 licence applications was set by the municipality.

According to GIS information from February 2, 2023 on the website, there were 239 applications listed as ‘under review’ within Tiny Township; the number of approved licences was noted as 84 on February 2 2024.

As per the report, 39 complaints regarding short-term rentals were received in the fourth quarter of 2022. In that time frame of 2023 that number reduced to 15; unlicenced properties totalled seven complaints, with two advertising violations, one complaint for noise and nuisance concerns, and one for renting over the allotted amount of days per year. Four other complaints were included although not directly related to short-term rentals.

The fourth quarter municipal law enforcement report, including short-term rental violation information, can be viewed on the agenda page on the Township of Tiny website.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on the township’s YouTube channel.


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