Calgary mulls new rules, fees for Airbnb and other short-term rentals

Calgarians who run short-term rentals could be subject to new licensing fees, safety rules and up to $1,000 fines if bylaw changes being discussed by a council committee get approved.

Coun. Druh Farrell says Airbnbs and the home-sharing economy are growing in popularity, and it's time for the city to step in to ensure the safety of guests and property owners.

"Sands are shifting under our feet, and we're just grappling with how to deal with the impacts. So what this is meant to do is not to discourage but to regulate — to regulate safety and proper behaviour so that if a short-term rental moves into your neighborhood, they're good neighbours," she told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

The Ward 7 representative says some hosts run significant business operations that aren't yet required to meet the same fire safety requirements that a hotel would, for example. 

"There's one example in my ward where the entire floor is owned as a short-term rental except for one permanent resident, and it's pretty hard to build a sense of neighborhood there," she said.

New rules proposed

The city committee is considering a two-tiered licence system, with the first tier covering dwellings with one to four bedrooms for a $100 annual fee, and the second tier covering five or more bedrooms for $191 plus the cost of a fire inspection.

Monty Kruger/CBC

The proposed rules include stipulations that no more than two guests may share a room, every bedroom must have a window, and hosts must not overlap bookings.

Breaking those rules would result in fines up to $1,000. The city also reserves the right to yank the licence of a bad host.

Farrell added that many short-term rental providers have not been paying income tax, and she believes this licensing system will allow for more transparency in that regard.

Calgary Airbnb summer traffic jumps 35%

According to a news release from Airbnb, hosts in Calgary earned $18 million this summer through more than 137,000 guest arrivals between May 24 and Sept. 2 — that's up 35 per cent from summer 2018.

"Airbnb is providing important supplemental income for families in Calgary that helps make their lives more affordable" said Alexandra Dagg, director of public policy for Airbnb in Canada, in a statement to CBC News.

"We welcome the City of Calgary's move toward regulating home-sharing and look forward to continuing to support the city through this new chapter of regulation," Dagg said.

If approved, the city's new bylaw would come into effect Feb. 1, 2020.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.