Joint city committee backs stricter rules on short-term rentals

Airbnb stock photo

A joint city committee Thursday endorsed a new bylaw that will restrict short-term rentals on Airbnb and other similar platforms to primary residences in a bid to crack down on so-called “ghost hotels” run by absentee owners.

The city’s planning committee and community and protective services committee unanimously approved the bylaw that will effectively prevent corporations from operating short-term rentals. Owners who rent their properties out on Airbnb and other home-sharing platforms will be required to pay $110 for a permit that will be valid for two years.

Short-term rentals outside an operator’s primary residence would also be permitted at cottages or coach houses in rural areas. 

Owners will be required to provide proof of residence such as a bill, driver’s licence or other government-issued document with the address in order to receive a permit. Operators would also be required to have at least $1 million in insurance that specifically covers short-term rental activity.

Under the new bylaw, hosts can have their permits revoked for violations such as criminal activity, unpaid fees, overcrowding or behaviour that endangers public health or safety, and both operators and guests can be fined up to $100,000. 

The city says it plans to hire six full-time bylaw officers to enforce the new rules. Enforcement costs would be covered by permit and registration fees as well as the existing four per cent municipal accommodations tax that hotel guests and people who rent rooms through Airbnb have been required to pay since 2018. 

Council approved a broad strategy for governing short-term rentals in November 2019 that included asking staff to draft the new regulations. 

If approved, the new policy would be in place for the next three years. Council is scheduled to consider the proposal at its next meeting on April 28.