Calgary

Calgary Airbnbs must obtain licences as short-term rental rules kick in

Calgarians who own short-term rentals will be required to license their business starting Feb. 1. The new tiered licences, created through an amendment to the business licence bylaw, are intended to help regulate the quickly growing industry.

Calgarians renting out their home through Airbnb or similar service need a licence

Renting out a home on a short-term basis has rapidly gained in popularity thanks to online services such as Airbnb. The City of Calgary has responded with a set of rules that go into effect on Feb. 1. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Calgarians who rent out their homes through Airbnb or other short-term rental services must obtain a business licence as of Feb. 1 and abide new rules, or face a $1,000 penalty.

City officials say they will resort to fines only if a host repeatedly ignores the rules after they've been educated on the reasons behind these regulations.

"We do realize this is something new, and as a result of that we really want to work with people to understand what it is so that it works for them," said Cody Weiss, business strategist with the City of Calgary.

People can apply online for one of two licences depending on the number of bedrooms in the rental.

One- to four-bedroom rentals will cost $100, while owners of larger rentals will need to pay a $276 fee, which includes the cost of a fire inspection. 

 A short-term rental refers to stays up to 30 days.

Homes with 4 bedrooms or less to rent out will require a $100 business licence. (John MacDougall/Getty Images)

The bylaw also includes the following rules: that no more than two guests may share a room, every bedroom must have a window, the host must keep permanent records that include full name and email address of a paid guest, and the host can't overlap multiple bookings.

Breaking those rules could lead to a fine of up to $1,000, or the cancellation of the host's rental licence.

Keith Robinson, who is a host and the moderator of the Calgary Home Sharing Club, says he welcomes regulations that better define this emerging industry.

"It can't be in this sort of grey [area], you know, not fish nor fowl, not a traditional B&B, not a hotel, not a room and board, right? You know what is it?," said Robinson.

"So to be licensed and regulated is a very positive step."

But he says he has concerns about a few of the rules — in particular, not being allowed to have overlapping bookings.

"Well, it could, in theory, it could seriously curtail my ability to host, and, yeah, I mean worst-case scenario we would lose our house," said Robinson, who uses his short-term rental to offset bills and build up his retirement savings.

Under this rule, a host cannot rent out separate rooms to separate guests under separate reservations but can rent out multiple rooms as part of one guest reservation.

The city says the decision to prevent overlapping bookings is to maintain a safe environment for guests and to prevent out-of-control party houses from springing up.

"And as such you know it creates a challenge for us then to determine exactly what's going on within that property," said Weiss.

But Robinson argues he's never had a problem and he says it would seem strange for two strangers to somehow throw a massive party, especially if the host resides there, as he does.

A spokesperson for Airbnb Canada says the city did a good job of listening to hosts, the host platforms and residents in drafting this bylaw, but, like Robinson, the company believes the overlapping rule is too restrictive.

"There's a couple of smaller administrative things, like that, where we would like to see some changes, and we will continue to talk to the city about that … as they review whether it's working or not, and how it is working," said Nathan Rotman, deputy director of Airbnb Canada. 

Rotman says representatives from Airbnb Canada will be meeting with hosts in Calgary next week to talk about the new regulations and reinforce their responsibilities under this new bylaw.

The city expects a strong uptake in compliance among owners of short-term rentals. 

Weiss says the number of short-term rentals varies depending on time of year, from a low of about 3,200 in some of the winter months, to 4,600 in the summer.

The city says it will work closely with host platforms such as Airbnb to create awareness and share information about licensing to keep track of hosts who are complying.

Later this year, the province plans to introduce a tourism levy on short-term rentals. Details are expected in the spring 2020 budget.

About the Author

Colleen Underwood has been a reporter/editor with CBC news for more than 10 years filing stories from across southern Alberta for radio, television and online. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleen.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.