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Licencing requirement for Airbnb-style rentals gets green light

Council's committee of the whole endorses plan, with potential council ratification later this month
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City council is poised to consider implementing a short-term accommodation rental licencing program. It met with committee of the whole support on Tuesday.

Airbnb providers and others offering short-term overnight accommodation in Guelph will soon need a business licence.

During its Tuesday meeting the committee directed city staff to create a licencing program for stays of 30 or fewer consecutive days, excluding hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast spots as they’re already covered through an existing program.

It still has to be ratified by council at the end of the month.

“I think staff have struck a very fine balance,” said Coun. Phil Allt, referring to the wishes of people who want short-term rentals banned in the city and those who don’t want them regulated. “What we do not wish to do … is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

“This is not an easy issue at all.”

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.

If ratified by council, the committee-approved plan would allow residents to obtain a licence for their primary residence as well as one for an investment property, though there could be multiple rental spots on each property.

Coun. Dan Gibson was the only council member to vote against the licencing proposal, suggesting he’d like to see it expanded to allow someone to offer rental space at their primary residence as well as up to three or five investment properties.

“I am nervous about what kind of (message) that sends to entrepreneurs,” he said of limiting the number of properties where someone can offer short-term rentals, adding he knows people who currently offer such rentals at a variety of locations. 

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

During its first year the program is expected to cost $208 per property, with an additional $241 fee for inspection, totalling $449. The annual renewal fee is proposed to be $224.

“Today, the sharing of a private home, or ‘hosting,’ on a short-term basis has become popular and is present in Guelph in all types of dwellings and utilized by more than just tourists,” the staff report continues, explaining they’re also used by people wanting somewhere to stay during household renovations, accommodations needed for overnight guests and new residents as they look for a long-term rental.

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.

The city hired a data provider to quantify the number of short-term accommodation rentals across multiple platforms. In January, they determined there were 169 unique rental units promoted in Guelph.

Airbnb had the greatest number of active listings at the time, with more than 90 per cent.

The median cost of such rentals last year was $83 per night in Guelph.

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


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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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