Ottawa hotels ask city to regulate Airbnb

The Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association is watching closely as Vancouver and Toronto move to regulate short-term rentals, and are urging the City of Ottawa to do the same.

Local hotels want Ottawa to follow Vancouver and Toronto down the path to regulating short-term rentals

Larco Hospitality's Daniel Laliberté says hotels in Ottawa are urging the city to come up with regulations for short-term rentals. (CBC)

The Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association argues some hosts on the popular room-sharing website Airbnb are operating like businesses and should have to register for a licence, and pay the same fees as the hotel industry.

"Similar to the taxi business, things will change. We're not against evolution, we're not against their product, we're not against the fact they rent to tourists," said Daniel Laliberté of Larco Hospitality Management Inc., which represents owners of various hotels in the region and across the country.
There were 1,314 'active' AirBnb listings in Ottawa in December 2015.

But the hotels are particularly concerned with hosts who don't just share their home when they're away, but who operate several, even dozens, of listings for profit.

"We simply want it to be fair. If you set up a business, you pay taxes, you follow the rules," said Laliberté.

The hotel association is working with Ottawa city staff and politicians, and urge them to review short-term rentals, such as Airbnb and VRBO, and come up with ways to monitor them and get them to remit both HST and tourism fees.

Concerns over fairness, rental housing

In June, the city's economic development branch reported a big rise in what it called "active" Airbnb listings in 2015. The number doubled from 566 in January to 1,314 in December.

But Laliberté said, in the Ottawa market at least, Airbnb is not big competition for hotels.

"They're taking some business, depending on the level of the hotel, but it's not dramatic," said Laliberté.

Rather, he says the City of Ottawa should regulate this player in the sharing economy out of a sense of fairness, and to prevent strain on available rental housing when homes and condos are instead being used for visitor stays.

"It's more than just the hotels. It's a social issue that needs to be addressed," Laliberté argued.

At this point, the City of Ottawa is neither licensing the short-term rental units, nor regulating Airbnb from a land-use perspective, according to Roger Chapman, the chief of bylaw and regulatory services.

Vancouver, Toronto tackling regulation

The Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association is closely watching as other Canadian cities move to regulate short-term rentals such as Airbnb.

At the end of October, the Toronto mayor's executive committee voted to have staff report on proposed regulations for short-term rental sites like Airbnb no later than spring 2017.

Vancouver, meanwhile, is considering allowing short-term rentals of less than 30 days only in homes that are principal residences. That city struggles with a lack of affordable rental housing.

And, Québec enacted legislation this past spring to get online short-term rentals to obtain the same provincial certification as hotel and bed-and-breakfast operators.

For its part, Airbnb has said it supports regulation.

"Airbnb is committed to working with cities across Canada, including Ottawa, to develop smart, easy-to-follow rules that support home sharing," wrote Airbnb's Christopher Nulty in a statement.

"We believe in paying our fair share. We have agreements in more than 200 jurisdictions globally to collect and remit hotel taxes on behalf of our hosts and guests. We're also working with the Ontario Ministry of Finance to promote consumer awareness during tax season about hosts' reporting obligations."