Whitehorse developing local Airbnb regulations
'There is nothing specific in our bylaws that talk about short-term rental in residential areas'
Whitehorse city planners are working on a plan to regulate short-term home rentals that are advertised through Airbnb and other online marketplaces.
The goal is to have a new bylaw in place by this fall. Currently, short-term rentals in Whitehorse don't require a business licence, and there aren't regulations.
For now, bylaw officers would only deal with Airbnbs if there are issues such as noise complaints or other bylaw infractions.
"If we do get complaints about a specific unit being used for Airbnb, because of issues we will likely investigate and there may be enforcement action," says city planner Kinden Kosick.
"We're a small city now, and with that comes some of these issues that we're facing such as Airbnb. And as you grow, you need more sophisticated regulations, more sophisticated policies to try and deal with the multitude of issues that you're faced with."
For example, regulations might require Airbnb hosts to have a valid business licence. That would allow the city to keep track of how many there are, and where.
Kosick says right now, renting a Whitehorse home through Airbnb is a bit of a grey area.
"Definitely, there is nothing specific in our bylaws that talk about short term rental in residential areas," Kosick said.
According to online data and analytics company AirDNA, there are 148 active rentals in Whitehorse.
The city is looking at regulations that would require business licence numbers to be posted with Airbnb advertisements, so they can be tracked by the city. The idea is that renters would know the place they are staying is regulated and approved through the municipality.
Reinvent the wheel
Kosick says the city will look to other jurisdictions to see what rules and regulations they have adopted around private rental units.
"When you're coming up with regulations and bylaws, somebody out there has had some good ideas before you in just about every case. So it's a matter of kind of adapting things to the local context," said Kosick.
"There's only so many ways to regulate something like Airbnb, and somebody out there has figured it out."
Many bed and breakfast operators also use Airbnb to book guests.
Carol Oberg owns Casey's Bed and Breakfast in downtown Whitehorse. She has been running her business for over 20 years.
She says although the online marketplace site does bring in business, most of her bookings come from through other sources, such as Expedia or word of mouth.
She says regulations for homeowners who offer short-term rentals would be good — especially if they ensure homes are safe for renters.
"There are things you have to consider — do you have liability insurance, do you have working fire extinguishers? I mean, those things are important," said Oberg.
Airbnb Canada says it works with communities and governments to develop "smart, easy-to-follow regulations."
"The majority of hosts on Airbnb share their homes a few nights each month to help make ends meet. In a time when life feels like it's only getting more expensive for Canadians – we want to make sure they can keep benefiting from our platform," said Alex Dagg of Airbnb Canada, in an email to CBC.