Anyone in Ottawa looking to host a unit on Airbnb or a similar short-term rental platform will now need a permit from the city and must follow a stricter set of guidelines after council approved a new bylaw regulating the industry in the nation’s capital on Wednesday.
Under the new regime, hosts are limited to renting out their primary residences only. Operators will need a permit from the city validating their address, though some cottages in rural areas will be exempt to the primary residence rule.
The regulations are an attempt to return short-term rentals to the city’s housing stock, ban so-called “ghost hotels” and reduce noise complaints related to party houses rented on platforms such as Airbnb.
Violators — both guests and hosts — would be subject to fines of up to $100,000 per offence and operators could have their permits revoked.
The bylaw is part of a three-year pilot, which could see the rules revised at the end of that period.
City council debated an amendment from councillors Diane Deans and Riley Brockington seeking to limit the number of people allowed to sleep overnight in a rental unit to eight, down from the proposed 16 adults or 32 children.
Deans said the issue of overcrowding in residential areas had cropped up in her ward, where entire sports teams or dance troupes of kids and their chaperones have stayed in single units when in town for a tournament or other event.
She suggested instead that these groups should be staying in the city’s hotels in areas set up to accommodate those numbers.
Some pushed back against Deans’ and Brockington’s tight cap, with Innes Coun. Laura Dudas pointing out that her and her sisters’ families couldn’t take out a single unit together under the councillors’ proposal.
Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, whose family counts seven on their own, said the motion’s proposed cap of eight people “discriminates against large families.”
“If I have two more kids, I’m screwed,” Moffatt said. “It’s foolish.”
Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley found a degree of compromise asking Deans and Borckington to shift the proposed cap to 10, but Moffatt and Osgoode Coun. George Darouze dissented on the motion.