City to consider short-term rental regulations

File photo courtesy of @CanStock / Elenathewise

Londoners looking to make a little extra cash by offering short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb and Vrbo may soon require a license from the city to do so.

A report to be mulled over by municipal politicians this week calls for new regulations for property owners who temporarily rent out their houses and apartments. They include creating a new class of rental licence to ensure applicants meet the eligibility conditions of traditional landlords, registration numbers be posted on all online ads, and required disclosure of whether the proposed rental accommodation is the owner’s principal residence.

The proposed policy changes are aimed at curbing wild parties, noise complaints, and litter concerns associated with the popular hotel alternative sites. Last June, a massive high school graduation after-party led to $80,000 damages to a home in the area of Grand Avenue and Ridout Street that was listed on Airbnb. Ten people were charged in connection with the destructive party at the Old South residence.

Other Ontario cities, including Toronto and Ottawa, have already begun the process to imposed similar regulations on short-term rentals in their communities.

Staff believe the new regulations would allow short-term rentals to continue to operate in London, while at the same time clearly outlining the responsibilities of property owners. Potential renters would also be ensured safe accommodations and character, amenities, and quality of existing residential neighbourhoods would be protected.

Last year, more than 57,000 people used local short term rentals, with Airbnb hosts in London earning a combined $7.7-million.

An online survey posted to the city’s website in 2018 found 80 per cent of the 811 respondents were in favour of allowing property owners to operate short-term rentals. Property maintenance and personal safety were ranked as the most important element. Traffic and loss of rental units were considered least important by respondents.

Six out of ten of those who participated in the survey were in support of regulating the house-sharing industry within London.

Should council approve the licensing process for short-term rentals, staff would bring forward bylaw amendments that would require landlords to begin paying the city’s accommodation tax. They had previously been exempt from the 4 per cent tax levied on every hotel room stay.

The community and protective services committee will debate the report at its meeting on Wednesday.