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It's official: Airbnb-style rentals in Guelph will require a licence

New rules, intended to address health and safety concerns, are expected to be in place July 1

Are you offering or planning to provide Airbnb-style short-term rentals in Guelph? If so, you’ll soon need a business licence.

On Tuesday morning, city council unanimously approved a plan to create a licensing program for overnight accommodation rentals of 30 or fewer consecutive days, excluding hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast spots as they’re already covered through an existing program.

The proposal, which limits such rentals to a person’s primary residence and one other, generated debate during council’s committee of the whole meeting earlier this month but spurred little conversation by council on Tuesday.

City staff anticipate the program will be ready to begin on July 1, though council would still need to approve the official licensing bylaw before that can happen.

The main thrust of the program, which is intended to be revenue neutral, is to “address potential health and safety concerns,” explains a staff report to council. It includes an inspection process as well as insurance requirements.

In response to a question from Coun. Cathy Downer, Doug Godfrey, the city’s general manager of operation, explained the licensing program will be enforced through a combination of complaint-based inspections and proactive monitoring of advertised rentals.

Downer also mentioned she’d heard some long-term rental landlords have turned to short-term rentals in order to avoid requirements under the Landlord and Tenant Board. Godfrey said he’s also heard that, especially in reference to the notice requirements for eviction.

Gibson was the only council member to vote against the program’s establishment during council’s committee of the whole meeting earlier this month, arguing people should be allowed to provide short-term rentals on up to five properties.

He was absent from the council meeting on Tuesday, but indicated during the committee meeting he was considering putting forward amendments. The reason, he offered, is that some folks have already bought multiple properties with short-term rentals as their income plan.

Asked about that idea, Gibson told GuelphToday via email he didn’t believe he had enough support on council to increase the number of properties.

In fact, the sole delegate during Tuesday’s meeting urged council to reject Gibson’s idea, which was not formally introduced for consideration.

“I’m grateful Guelph is set to regulate this business model, which is dependent upon the commodification of our homes,” said Morgan Dandie, noting Guelph is among the most expensive cities in Canada for housing rentals. 

“I believe the proposed schedule strikes an appropriate balance for our residents seeking long-term homes and for visitors wanting to stay in our beautiful city.”

Anyone seeking a licence would be required to submit documentation that demonstrates they live in the city. If they’re a renter, a letter from their landlord granting permission for short-term rentals would be needed, as would a letter from the condo board in the case of condominium owners looking to rent out space.

A minimum of $2 million in liability insurance would also be needed.

Council first directed city staff to look into the idea of a short-term accommodation bylaw in 2016. 

Last February council gave city staff the go-ahead to craft a licensing program for consideration, which is what was presented to council during its committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday.

In addition to Gibson, Coun. Leanne Caron was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.