Committee looks to regulate rental accommodations

OTTAWA – As the short-term rental market in Ottawa explodes, city council works to develop a regulatory framework to protect renters, those who rent and the neighbours that surround these properties.

“In response to the proliferation of short-term rentals in Ottawa and concerns about the quality of rental housing, low vacancy rates and a growing need for more affordable rental housing, the city’s Community and Protective Services committee has approved a regulatory framework for rental accommodations,” city staff released in a statement Nov. 16.

City Council will consider the proposed regulatory regime at its meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 27.

In cases where property owners continue to not comply with property standards, the city would immediately increase the re-inspection fee to $500. Revenue from this fee would be used to fund two new bylaw officers who would focus on repeat offenders and high-risk properties.

The proposed regulatory regime for long-term rental housing also includes new bylaws to improve landlord-tenant communication and pest and vermin management. The city would provide additional educational information on tenant rights and related by-laws.

“The city will pilot new regulations permitting short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods for three years, enabling property owners to rent out their principal residences, rural cottages and vacation homes on short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo, HomeAway and FlipKey,” city staff said. “Short-term rentals of commercial and investment properties would still be prohibited.”

Short-term rental platforms, property managers and hosts will need to register with the city and follow rules related to consumer protection, health and safety, and community nuisances. Short-term rental hosts would need to get a permit that would be valid for two years. The city would use revenues from the new registration and permit fees and from the municipal accommodations tax to enforce the rules.

Following public consultation, staff will report back to the committee next year with by-laws to enact the proposed regulations. As there are no systemic or recurring issues with hotels, motels or bed and breakfasts, the city will not create any additional regulations or licensing for these establishments.

Rooming houses will see no further regulations either as the city hopes to prevent further decline of this affordable form of housing. Instead, the city will use incentives like provincial funding for property enhancements to improve living conditions.