The Town of Brome Lake will hold a public consultation on Feb. 28 to present and discuss a set of proposed bylaws regulating short-term rental properties.
“We have had the intent of regulating since more than a year ago, but we held off at the beginning of 2021, and then there was the summer, and then the elections and then the new [public health] restrictions, and now the council is determined to go ahead [to create] a legal framework,” says Owen Falquero, the director of legal affairs for the Town of Brome Lake. “The current zoning bylaw is not adequate to deal with the situation.”
The town carried out a survey about the issue last summer, and “looked far and wide” at how other rural municipalities were approaching the growth of short-term rentals, which has put pressure on the housing market across the Eastern Townships and priced many workers out of the municipalities where they work. “It’s a problem all over the region and all over Canada,” says Falquero. “Here, we have been tolerating them, but there’s the problem of noise, of different people coming out…and it does take some housing off the market. When people are buying properties to use them as hotels, there is less property available for residents.” The public consultation will allow residents to express their concerns about the bylaws before they are presented for second reading on March 7.
“We don’t want people from outside buying property and using it as a hotel, but we do want people who already own property in town to be able to make a little money on short-term rentals,” Falquero says.
The proposed bylaws, tabled at the town council meeting on Feb. 7, would create two categories of legal short-term rental properties. People who are renting out their primary residence will be able to continue to do so, Falquero explains, as long as they rent it out no more than 182 days per year and obtain a permit from the Corporation d’industrie touristique du Québec (CITQ), the government agency which oversees tourist lodging. People who rent out their secondary residence, such as their cabin, will need a CITQ permit for the property as well as an additional permit from the Town of Brome Lake, which will cost $500 per year. Renting out a secondary residence will only be possible if the residence is a single-family home and the owner is a physical person (as opposed to a company). Secondary residences will also be subject to additional restrictions, including a minimum distance of 20 metres from surrounding houses.
If a property owner does not respect town bylaws, including noise regulations, the town will also have the power to revoke a permit, after multiple warnings, or send out multiple notices of infraction with fines. It can also request that the CITQ revoke a permit.
Secondary residences with a permit will also be taxed at a slightly higher rate – 60 per cent of the residential rate plus 40 per cent of the commercial rate. Owners of primary residences who occasionally rent out their property will continue to pay the residential rate.
Falquero says “the large majority” of the estimated 45 short-term rental properties in Brome Lake currently covered by CITQ permits will qualify under the new bylaw; however “a small minority…won’t qualify, either because their property is too small, they don’t have the requisite 20-metre distance to the neighbour or because the owner is a company.” Owners of properties with CITQ certificates that don’t meet the new requirements will be able to continue renting out those properties until their current CITQ certificate expires.
Falquero clarified that long-term rental properties (with a rental period of more than 30 days) are permitted everywhere in Quebec and governed by provincial housing regulations, and the proposed bylaws do not affect the status of properties that are already classified as bed and breakfasts.
Brome Lake residents who would like to make their voices heard at the in-person public consultation, on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Centre Lac-Brome, must reserve seats in advance by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (450 243-6111). Those who are unable to attend the consultation in person can submit comments by email to Owen Falquero (email@example.com) or by mail to the address Draft By-law 596-12 – Public Consultation Ville de Lac-Brome, 122 Lakeside, Lac-Brome, Quebec, J0E 1V0.
Falquero said the proposed bylaws are expected to be passed by council on March 7, and may be subject to a referendum if residents present a petition with a sufficient number of signatures. If there’s no referendum, the bylaws will be sent to the MRC for approval, and will most likely come into force in April.