Curbs on Charlottetown short-term rentals take effect March 28, but no details yet

Short-term rental rules coming into effect March 28 will allow rentals only in owners' primary residences in Charlottetown.   (Beyond Time/Shutterstock - image credit)
Short-term rental rules coming into effect March 28 will allow rentals only in owners' primary residences in Charlottetown. (Beyond Time/Shutterstock - image credit)

New regulations for short-term rentals in Charlottetown are coming into effect near the end of March, and affordable housing advocates and property owners are waiting to see what licensing and enforcement will look like.

A spokesperson says the city is still working on rules to cover those two areas.

Housing advocates are hoping the changes set for March 28 will bring relief to Charlottetown's squeezed long-term rental market, where vacancy rates are low and rents are high. But property owners and managers are far from resigned to the new way of doing things.

A council vote in February 2022 decreed that once the rules are in place, any accommodation offered for short-term rental on sites like Airbnb must be part of the owner's primary residence.

Owners cannot have multiple properties listed for short stays, and it won't be possible to list an apartment for rent unless it is your own residence and you are offering it while you are away. Renting out a suite in your home would be allowed, but only if you are home at the time of the rental.

Cory Pater, a volunteer with Fight for Affordable Housing, said the group is hoping to see proactive enforcement of the new rules so that short-term rental units can find their way back into the long-term market.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

"We would like to see people out looking for this sort of thing, not just the typical complaints-based system," said Pater.

And he doesn't think evidence would be hard to find: "It's the type of business where in order to get customers, you have to advertise, you have to put it out there."

Pater added that he hopes the city will let property owners know about the changes in plenty of time.

"It's not too far away from March, when these regulations are going to kick in. I would like to see them start to do that as soon as possible."

Tharsha Ravichakaravarthy/CBC
Tharsha Ravichakaravarthy/CBC

In response to an interview request from CBC News, the City of Charlottetown sent an emailed statement from deputy mayor Alanna Jankov, who is also the chair of planning.

It said in part: "Council approved amendments to the Zoning By-law in February 2022... At that time, Council provided a one-year grace period to allow existing STR operators an opportunity to either conform with the new Zoning By-law regulations or make alternative plans for the long term use of the property,"

Jankov also said in the statement that staff have been directed to prepare by-laws to deal with enforcement and licensing, and are currently doing so.

Owners taking bookings

Phillip McInnis has owned a short-term rental for about 10 years. He rents out both sides of his duplex in Charlottetown when he goes to his cottage.

He said he had a great summer last year and is taking reservations for the summer of 2023.

"I'm going on the assumption, because it's one roof, that I should be okay," said McInnis.

Still, he said he's not happy with the new regulations.

Tyler Cave/CBC
Tyler Cave/CBC

"I feel the city is going to lose out on a lot of money, through the restaurants, entertainment and shopping," he said.

He said the short-term rental properties in Charlottetown are generally higher-end locations and would not be affordable housing if they became available for long-term tenants.

And he hopes the rules can still be tweaked a bit before the change happen.

Needs a licence but can't get one

McInnis said that when he applied to the province for his tourism license, he was told he needed a licence from the city first. He hasn't been able to get that yet.

"Here we are middle of January. When are we going to get our licensing from the city?" he wondered. "The city has to step forward to do something soon."

A spokesperson with the province confirmed via email: "We require that all tourism establishment operators within a municipality provide written confirmation from that municipality, that the proposed tourism establishment is operating in compliance with the municipal by-laws and has permission to operate."

Mostly upper-end units: operator

Leslie Beck manages a number of short-term rentals on behalf of homeowners.

She told CBC News in an email on Friday that the coming change will not make housing more affordable for those who need a break the most.

"These rules will put a dozen or more $600,000 to $1,000,000+ homes on the real estate market. Anyone looking to purchase a home in that price range will benefit from these rules," she wrote.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"Hotel operators will benefit from these new rules. There may be a few more luxury month-month rentals available as well, so anyone pursuing that kind of accommodation will benefit.

"Affordable housing availability, unfortunately, will not increase."

Beck called the changes "short-sighted" and said they "will have a very negative impact on Charlottetown citizens and the Island as a whole."

Yet she said she will abide by the rules, saying: "I will not run any properties that cannot legally be rented."

Still seeking flexibility

Dico Reijers, who rents out a property that is not his primary residence, said he didn't expect any new rules to be in place this summer. He's taking bookings as usual.

"I haven't heard anything," he told CBC News.

Reijers works as a developer and has also built apartment complexes. He said he would love to sit down with anyone who's interested to explain the economies behind restoring properties for the short-term market.

It's probably a good idea to regulate it to some degree. You don't want a 12-unit building downtown that's clearly apartments kicked out and made into a hotel. — Dico Reijers

"It's probably a good idea to regulate it to some degree. You don't want a 12-unit building downtown that's clearly apartments kicked out and made into a hotel. I think that's ridiculous," said Reijers.

However, he said, short-term rentals allow people who have done extensive renovations to units to get their money back.

"Let those people go, because they beautified the city. There's a lot of benefits that come with that," he said.

Reijers hopes that there will still be flexibility, even though council has voted for the owner-occupied rule change.

"They can walk it back," he said.