Nova Scotia eyes crackdown on Airbnb rentals

Nova Scotia is getting ready to rewrite the rules that govern the way accommodations are rented out. The province may follow Quebec which is about to begin regulating the underground Airbnb industry.

Airbnb website shows more than 1,000 accommodations available in Nova Scotia

Halifax homeowner Kerry McInnes is helping to pay her mortgage by using Airbnb to rent out a room in her house. (CBC)

Nova Scotia is getting ready to rewrite the regulations that govern the way accommodations are rented out.

Quebec is about to become the first province in the country to regulate the underground Airbnb industry and Nova Scotia's new tourism agency says changes are needed here as well.

A quick scan of the Airbnb website shows more than 1,000 accommodations available in Nova Scotia.

The owners can charge as much or as little as they want.

As popular as it is, it's against the law.

Patrick Sullivan, CEO of Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, acknowledged it is difficult to enforce regulations preventing unlicensed rentals of rooms in private homes. (CBC)

Kerry McInnes and her boyfriend just bought a home in Halifax this month.

To help pay down their mortgage, they joined the Airbnb community online and started renting out a room.

 "You can make a fair amount. Rather than getting a roommate, you can just rent your room out short term," she said.

McInnes had guests booked in her house Wednesday, and more lined up in the summer.

The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia has long complained about unlicensed rentals available on sites like Airbnb.

They're unlicensed, they don't pay taxes and don't have to meet quality standards, the association says. 

Association spokewoman Darlene Grant-Fiander said it is no longer a case of individuals making a little extra money by renting out a room in their home.

"I would say it started off that way and it's not that way anymore. We have whole apartment complexes doing short-term rental," she said.

"You know it's not small business anymore. It's big business."

Difficult to enforce

Patrick Sullivan, CEO of Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, acknowledged little is being done to regulate the underground market.

"But it's difficult for us to enforce that. We have to get a policeman to come. The policeman has to issue a ticket. So it's not easily enforceable legislation. So we need to talk about how we can change that moving forward." 

He said the province needs to work with the industry to make changes for the benefit of visitors.

"We need to keep up with the times to ensure that visitors can find great properties."

McInnes says she's okay with regulations that improve the quality of accommodations. But she doesn't like what's happening in Quebec where the province is forcing people like her to become a licensed accommodations provider.

"They just have to accept that there's competition. It's just the way the world works."

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