City's Airbnb rules would limit rentals to primary homes

The City of Ottawa wants to restrict Airbnb and other short-term property rentals to primary residences, a constraint that's already been imposed — and swiftly challenged — in Toronto.

Proposed bylaw includes 'party house provisions' to clamp down on nuisance renters

The City of Ottawa is proposing a new short-term property rental bylaw to regulate such popular platforms as Airbnb. (Martin Bureau/Getty Images)

The City of Ottawa wants to restrict Airbnb and other short-term property rentals to primary residences, a constraint that's already been imposed — and swiftly challenged — in Toronto.

A proposed bylaw outlined in a report posted online Tuesday 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.

City staff also recommend establishing a special unit to enforce the bylaw.

Condo boards and landlords would be able to exclude properties from the city's registry by providing a letter signed by officers of the corporation, a notarized copy of the condominium declaration prohibiting short-term rentals and a list of addresses within the condominium.

'Unnecessarily onerous'

Property owners would only be allowed to rent out one home at a time, but cottages or vacation homes outside the urban boundary would be exempt from that rule.

Hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts that use short-term rental platforms to fill vacancies would also be exempt from the primary residence rule.

In a statement, Airbnb public policy director Alex Dagg warned the bylaw would "reduce the amount of accommodations available and place unnecessarily onerous requirements on hosts."

"These recommendations will only serve to punish the thousands of responsible Ottawa hosts who use Airbnb as a means to support their families," Dagg said. 

Ottawa police believe this home on Benson Street in Nepean was being rented out on Airbnb when two men were shot at a party there on Oct. 20, 2019. (Jean-François Poudrier/Radio-Canada)

'Party house provisions'

When the City of Toronto imposed similar restrictions on short-term rentals, it was immediately appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. That appeal has led to months of hearings, but no date has been set for a decision.

Under Ottawa's proposed bylaw, a permit could be revoked if there's evidence of criminal activity, unpaid fees or penalties, a serious incident endangering public safety or health, or "egregious or repeated public nuisances" — a clause referred to as the "party house provisions."

A recent shooting at an Airbnb in Nepean heightened concerns about the safety of short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods.

Airbnb took steps to clamp down on party houses following a Halloween night shooting in California that left five people dead.

The Ottawa staff report proposes increasing the municipal accommodation tax from four to 4.25 per cent to cover the costs of setting up the new regime, if the existing tax rate proves insufficient. The tax would become mandatory for all short-term rental platforms in the city.

Airbnb remitted $1.1 million to the city in the first year it voluntarily collected the so-called hotel tax.

The staff report said establishing and enforcing the bylaw would cost $908,000 in its first year and $834,00 in subsequent years.


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