Sarnia to license and tax short-term rental accommodations

A bedroom. October 5, 2016. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

The City of Sarnia will start charging short-term rental operators fees and tax while council continues to draft rules to regulate the industry.

City Councillor Brian White said it’s a lot easier to add regulations than take them away.

“We are moving forward with the fees for licensing regarding the short-term rentals, as well as the ability to collect the MAT, which is the Municipal Accommodation Tax,” said White. “Further to that, council will convene a committee-of-the-whole, so members of council will get together, and hammer out the details of the regulations that will be imposed.”

White said they want to make sure they get the bylaw right.

“I think there were some items that were coming forward in that bylaw, as it was drafted, that just didn’t seem to make sense for most members of council, in terms of how they would perhaps be seen as heavy-handed regulations toward owners. So, it’s just an opportunity, again, to step back and reflect on the real data as it is available and to try and craft something that’s a little bit more Sarnia made.”

White said one of the sticking points is that any short-term accommodation rental must be operated by somebody who’s living in the unit itself.

“To me, that makes it very difficult, given the circumstances, for somebody who might be renting an entire house because they want to bring their entire family for a month to look for a new home in Sarnia, as they’re relocating for work reasons, or they’re coming for a two-week stay to enjoy the beach. It’s sometimes a little awkward to have a whole family and then some other stranger living in the home.”

White said the rationale behind the regulations is to make sure the industry isn’t impacting the housing stock in the city, which he says is already extremely pressured.

Operators have until June 30 to register their rental.

The initial license cost, which includes a property standards inspection and fire inspection, is $370.

It’s expected the city will start collecting the four per cent tax on the accommodations in March or April of this year.