How Kitchener and Waterloo are dealing with the Airbnb market

As Toronto gears up to regulate its short-term rentals, city officials in Kitchener and Waterloo say there's been no need to regulate or license Airbnb units.

Officials in both cities say there's been no need to regulate short-term rental units

Shamir Mehta, licensing manager from the city of Waterloo, say most Airbnb units fall in "low-rise operations." (The Associated Press)

City officials of Kitchener and Waterloo say they haven't found the need to regulate short-term rentals like units listed on Airbnb, unlike Toronto's city council, which has recently approved new rules for Airbnb hosts.

In Kitchener and Waterloo, there are about 300 listings that exist from a search on the Airbnb website. But so far, neither city has regulations specifically for governing short-term rentals. 

Only last month did Toronto's city council approve new short-term rental rules, stating people can only rent out their primary residences for 28 days or less. The regulations were put in place with increasing concerns about rental availability and the explosive Airbnb market.

Toronto has made new rules for Airbnb hosts, restricting them to only list their primary residence. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Rental licensing in Waterloo

The City of Waterloo doesn't regulate short-term rentals.

Shamir Mehta, the manager of housing licensing and standards at the City of Waterloo, told CBC News that a majority of the Airbnb units listed in the city belong to what he calls "low-rise operations" in detached homes. All landlords who rent out their low-rise operations must have a city license to do.  

Once a person has a rental license, '"they can operate it as they see fit," Mehta said. 

Depending on whether the landlord lives in the property, those who want a rental license have to pay anywhere from $500 to $1,200. Applicants must also show they have insurance coverage, a building permit and that their property complies with the city's electrical, fire and zoning codes. 

"All those things are identified to the application process," he said.  

Currently, Waterloo has 3,700 low-rise operations that are licensed for rental. According to Mehta, "there's a potential for any one of those to become an Airbnb-type business operation."  

In Waterloo, there are currently no city bylaws that outlines the rental licensing for high-rise operations.

"Statistically we don't have the numbers that show that a bylaw would be required," he said.

What this lack of regulation means is Airbnb units in those types of residential units are unregulated.

Currently there are approximately 300 Airbnb listings in Kitchener and Waterloo. (CBC)

"There's been no direction to staff from council to visit the need to capture high-rise Airbnb types or operations," he said. "There's usually security or property management that they have on site, which deters that type of business activity."

Mehta added that the city is currently monitoring the need to regulate rental licensing for high-rise buildings through "call volumes" — the number of complaints they get. But so far, they haven't seen a need. 

No regulations in Kitchener

As for the Airbnb units in Kitchener, CBC News made numerous attempts to speak to an official at the City of Kitchener about regulations but was not able to get an interview.

"We don't really have anyone for you to interview on this subject as the city doesn't license these types of rentals," said a spokesperson in an email response.

Currently, all units listed for rent in the city are unregulated because the City of Kitchener has no rental licensing bylaws.

"The only bylaws that would apply would be property standards, lot maintenance etc.-  but these bylaws apply to all properties, they are not unique to Airbnbs," the email read. 

The City has not received complaints about Airbnbs in Kitchener with regards to licensing or property standards, according to the spokesperson.

About the Author

Peggy Lam

Reporter

Peggy is a reporter and editor based in Kitchener-Waterloo. Prior to landing in KW, she has worked in Beijing, Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg and St. John's, covering daily news and current affairs. Got a story idea? Email her at peggy.lam@cbc.ca or tweet her @peggylam_

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