Nova Scotia

Province changing rules around Airbnb and other short-term accommodation rentals

The Nova Scotia government is throwing out the rules hotels, motels, bed and breakfast and rental property owners have to follow and is looking to convince those who use online sites such as Airbnb and VRBO to join a registry.

Nova Scotians who rent their own homes exempt, won't face commercial property taxes

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an event in San Francisco. The rules are changing in Nova Scotia around short-term accommodation rentals. (The Associated Press)

The Nova Scotia government has introduced two bills aimed at short-term rentals but is in no hurry to impose rules on Nova Scotians who use popular sites such as Airbnb or VRBO.

The province says that while the two bills set out some of the changes planned, it will take another year to iron out the details.

Tourism Minister Geoff MacLellan also announced today that the province is scrapping the rules that currently govern hotels, motels and inns, in a move designed to appease the traditional accommodations industry.

"I don't think anyone requires a clock radio be in the room anymore," he said.

"Things such as ashtrays and things that are [currently required] in the room, lamps, the number of coat hangers that would be required in a room, distance from the bed to the wall — these things are all stuff that are obviously redundant."

One of the bills introduced today ensures any "small-scale residential tourist accommodation" is assessed for property taxes at a residential rate rather than as a business. The other will encourage Nova Scotians who rent property to list accommodations online to register with the province.

What constitutes a "small-scale" accommodation remains to be determined.

The province also has not decided how much to charge people to register their accommodations. People who rent the home they live in will not have to register.

MacLellan rejected the notion the online rental market might force more traditional businesses into shutting down.

"I think it's going to do absolutely the opposite and I trust that's the case." he said.

Alexandra Dagg, public policy director for Airbnb Canada, applauded the provincial government "for recognizing and moving to regulate home sharing through fair, easy-to-follow rules."

"The travel industry is transforming, and we are encouraged to see the government modernize their rules to reflect the way people want to travel," she said in an email.

"Airbnb tourists can explore more of Nova Scotia than ever before by accessing accommodations outside of traditional tourist areas. They also support local businesses by spending more time, and more money in the neighbourhoods where they stay."

The  Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and the Hotel Association of Nova Scotia also said they were pleased with the changes in a statement. 

They go "a long way in addressing the proliferation of unregulated accommodation in the province," said Darlene Grant Fiander, president of the tourism association. 

The industry groups noted that tourism is a $2.7 billion industry in Nova Scotia, employing more than 40,000 people.  

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