Proposed Airbnb rules would have operators paying city a registration fee

June 12, 2017

Recommendations for a new licensing system for short-term rentals were made public on Monday. The new regulations, if passed by city council, could take effect as early as October 2017.

The city is proposing that short-term rental operators will need to register with the city and would receive a registration number they would use on Airbnb, and would pay the city a fee.

Short-term rentals (28 days or less) would continue to be allowed in primary residences and secondary suites, as long as the unit has undergone a fire inspection to confirm compliance with the fire code.

The proposed changes could saddle homeowners with almost $500 in fees: fire inspection ($299) and the operator fee ($40-150).

The proposed system would also allow bylaw officers to “audit and investigate operators to ensure they are operating in their principal residence and are in compliance with proposed Zoning Bylaw requirements.” The operator would also need to provide the city with the names of the companies used to advertise the listing, which parts of the property would be used for short term, whether it is a rental (entire unit, bedroom(s), secondary suite, other shared space), as well as contact information for a person 24 hours a day.

Mayor John Tory spoke with reporters Monday morning about the proposed regulations, and said their purpose is “intended to protect neighbourhoods, push more rental units back onto the market, and level the playing field for hotels and short-term rental providers.”

Tory emphasized it is “very, very important to make sure that we maintain the stability of our existing neighbourhoods, and by neighbourhood I mean not just single family homes but also condominium neighbourhoods.”

Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with the hospitality workers union and representative of Fairbnb, told reporters Monday he supports putting the accountability of enforcing city regulations onto the actual platforms, but is concerned about what will happen if it doesn’t work. “My greatest concern would be to have super nice regulations in place that everyone can live with, but then no one is obeying by these new regulations and Airbnb gets away with it.”

The proposed system is set up to rely on complaints; bylaw officers would also have a role in enforcement, but Tory admitted those powers are limited. “We couldn’t employ enough inspectors without going broke on all the different laws we have … You have to rely to some extent on people being law-abiding citizens, which most people are, and on others calling in information that helps us to make sure the law is respected,” he said.

Airbnb sent out a statement from Alexandra Dagg, Airbnb’s public policy manager, saying they were behind the move. The vast majority of Airbnb hosts in Toronto use home sharing to help pay the bills and afford to stay in their homes. Airbnb is transforming travel by allowing people to experience cities like a local and support neighbourhood businesses.”

The statement also included statistics, such as the typical host shares their home four or five nights a month, that Toronto is home to roughly 10,000 Airbnb hosts and Airbnb guests spent $417 million in neighbourhoods across the city last year.

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