Ottawa

Proposed Airbnb rules heavy-handed, hosts complain

Local Airbnb hosts say a proposed city bylaw that would limit short-term rentals to primary residences is too harsh, and worry responsible homeowners are being scapegoated for problems beyond their control.

Bylaw would prevent homeowners from renting out investment properties

Airbnb hosts Matthew Ridgeway, left, and James McKimm, right, are concerned the city's proposed rules are lumping conscientious landlords in with the bad apples. (Darren Major/CBC)

Local Airbnb hosts say a proposed city bylaw that would limit short-term rentals to primary residences is too harsh, and worry responsible homeowners are being scapegoated for problems beyond their control.

The proposed bylaw was outlined in a city staff report published Tuesday. It would require anyone wanting to rent out a home on Airbnb or similar platforms to be "natural persons" who can provide proof it's their primary residence and not an investment property. That proof could include a lease or deed, according to the proposed bylaw.

Renters would also have to apply for a short-term rental permit that could be revoked due to bad behaviour. A two-year permit would cost $100.

Airbnb host James McKimm told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning the proposed rules are "a bit heavy-handed."

"We have a lot of upstart technologies happening, and it'd be nice if Ottawa could embrace these sorts of things because they're not going away."

Rising rents, party houses

The city says it's proposing the new rules in an effort to address rising rents. Tuesday's report projects short-term rentals could account for 1.85 per cent of the city's rental stock by 2031, and that could result in annual rent increases of five per cent.

There are safety concerns, too: the report came barely two weeks after two men were shot during a party at a Nepean Airbnb. On Halloween, five people were killed in a shooting at an Airbnb in California.

Airbnb recently acknowledged "party houses" have become an issue, and has pledged to address the problem.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury said the city needs to implement the proposed rules because hosts "don't see the negative side" of what they're doing.

"The cohesiveness of the neighbourhood falls apart when you have too much of these," Fleury said. "Neighbours knowing neighbours, speaking to one another, working together as a community."

But McKimm said that's not fair to most Airbnb hosts. He rents out the home where he and his partner first lived before moving into a larger house as their family grew. He said he and his partner still live in the neighbourhood and plan to return to their original house once they retire.

"We have more skin in the game than a lot of people in that we see [our neighbours] all the time," he said.

Hosts cast as 'bogeyman'

Matthew Ridgeway, who rented out his condo until recently when his condo board forbade it, said he feels responsible hosts are suffering from bad press.

"This is presented almost as a bogeyman kind of a thing," he said, adding that he never had any complaints from neighbours.

The City of Ottawa is considering a recommendation to ban people with income properties from renting their houses on short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb. Two Airbnb hosts explain why they think such a plan is heavy-handed. 12:34

Like McKimm, Ridgeway said he and his wife have more invested in their property than some hosts might because his wife uses the condo a few times a week when she needs to be closer to downtown for work.

"I think most Airbnb hosts are super responsible," he said.

McKimm said he welcomes the city oversight, to a point.

"There are some problems that happened. I feel terrible for the people who live next to a place that's very poorly run," he said. "[But] rather than trying to quash it, [we need to be] finding some middle ground."

With files from Matthew Kupfer

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