Airbnb-style rentals need regulations, Calgary councillor says

People who use services like Airbnb to rent out their homes might have some red tape to deal with after a Calgary councillor asks the city next week to regulate short-term rentals.

Councillor wants 'an even playing field' between Calgary hotels, lodging houses and short-term rentals

Calgary Coun. Ward Sutherland is asking city council to look at regulating short-term rentals like the ones available on the home-sharing service Airbnb. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

People who use services like Airbnb to rent out their homes might have some red tape to deal with after a Calgary councillor asks the city next week to regulate short-term rentals.

Coun. Ward Sutherland says a notice of motion going to council on Monday is intended to create "an even playing field" between Calgary hotels, lodging houses and short-term rentals.

After receiving complaints about some problem properties in Ward 1 in the city's northwest, Sutherland found that many short-term rental properties fall outside of city bylaws.

"What we found out is …we don't have any rules at all, any bylaws or anything to deal with [short-term rentals]," Sutherland told the Calgary Eyeopener. "In fact, we can't even go onto the premises at all to even look at it."

Sutherland says the notice is "all encompassing" and will look at business licences, land use and safety requirements for short-term rentals and lodging houses.

"We have lodges, we have bed and breakfasts, we have individuals renting rooms … and it's progressing at a very fast pace. And to be honest, we are kind of caught off guard."

Sutherland said there are eight short-term rentals in Ward 1 causing problems. He's been dealing with complaints ranging from loud house guests to renters using the front lawn of a neighbouring home as a parking lot.

'Put everything into one basket'

In the notice of motion, Sutherland says many variations of rental agreements are not covered by Business Licence Bylaw 32M98, which regulates lodging houses, and Land Use Bylaw 1 P2007, which defines bed and breakfasts.

He says regulating short-term rentals will increase owner accountability, establish "fair play" between them and businesses, and make sure owners are providing a safe stay for guests.

Coun. Ward Sutherland says the city needs to put regulations on short-term rental properties to improve safety and create 'an even playing field' for businesses. (CBC)

"Again, we don't have access to the property so we don't know if there are any fire codes being followed, if there's fire detectors [or] anything at all," Sutherland said.

Sutherland says private, short-term rentals have an advantage over a large business because short-term rentals are not subject to a four per cent provincial tourism levy on hotel stays in Alberta.

"It's asking to put everything into one basket and come up with some best practices across the country … so we have the ability to deal with any issues as they arise."

Sutherland said it's "ironic" that the city has no bylaws in place to regulate short-term rentals while Calgarians looking to create secondary suites have to go through a lengthy application process.

"I'm not saying at any point we shouldn't do [short-term rentals]. I'm pro-business and there's many reasons to do it," Sutherland said. "But we have to make sure that it's safe and it's fair."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener