Short-term rental hosts in Edmonton could soon need a business licence

A council committee met for a second time Tuesday to discuss the options available to manage Edmonton’s short-term rental market like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, and heard from dozens of stakeholders who would be affected by a new regulation.

The proposed fee for the licence is $92

On Tuesday, city council's urban planning committee discussed ways for the city to manage a short-term rental boom. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC)

The city's urban planning committee voted Tuesday in favour of creating a business licence bylaw for short-term rental hosts in Edmonton.

Hosts would have to apply for a business licence, which could include a property inspection, Coun.Tim Cartmell said. The proposed fee for the licence is $92. 

The city is looking for ways to manage a short-term rental boom that saw online listings increase from 44 listings in 2014 to the more than 2,400 listings that currently exist, according to a city report released last week.

Administration recommended in the report that hosts renting properties on home-sharing sites such as Airbnb, apply for a business licence.

"I think it's finding that place of equity [between] those that do own and are renting out an entire building or a collection of buildings akin to a hotel, versus those that are simply sharing a bedroom or two and trying to supplement their income," Cartmell said Tuesday.

"I think there's two different things going on here and I think we'll have to distinguish between the two to find some solutions."

Both sides

Dozens of people weighed in Tuesday on how the city should manage Edmonton's short-term rental market like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway.

Many of the speakers at the urban planning committee meeting Tuesday were local Airbnb short-term rental hosts who rented out space in their primary residences, while others owned properties for the sole purpose of renting them out. 

Representatives from the hotel industry argued during the meeting that hosts with unregulated multiple listings should go through the same health and safety inspections hotels go through. 

Some also argued that multiple Airbnb listings function exactly like regular hotels or "ghost hotels" and should be regulated.

"A problem is they keep calling these residential accommodations as residential homes. If no one resides there full-time, how is it still a residential home? It's a business property," said Karen Chalmers, the executive director of Edmonton Destination Marketing Hotels.

Out of the 2,420 rental units in Edmonton listed online in May, 63 per cent were entire units; 36 per cent were private rooms; and one per cent were shared rooms, according to the city report.

Airbnb hosts who do have multiple properties say it's not fair to compare hotels with short-term rental homes where the owners do not reside.

"I don't think we can look at hotels in the same light, they're operating in an entirely different business model," said Shanna Badry, president of the Edmonton Short-Term Rentals Association.

"They're charging a lot more on a nightly rate than we are as a short-term rental house and they're providing smaller spaces with less amenities than what we are. They don't have kitchens, they don't have things like that to maintain. They're providing a different product and they have a different business model."

Edmonton's push to regulate short-term rentals is part of a Canada-wide trend. Vancouver introduced a short-term rental business licence in September 2018.

Cities like Ottawa, Saskatoon and Calgary are also exploring bylaws to curb the industry. 

The bylaw will come before city council for discussion within the next two weeks, according to Cartmell.


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