New rules for short-term rentals change little for registered tourism operators

GUYSBOROUGH – Last week the provincial government announced updated regulations for short-term rentals (STRs). Now all STRs, including those within people’s homes, must register annually with the Tourist Accommodations Registry and include their registration number in their online booking platform listings.

“These changes will help ensure we have a clear understanding of short-term rentals in the province and give municipalities access to the information they need to enforce land-use bylaws,” said Pat Dunn, Minister of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage in a new release issued Nov. 16. “This is another tool to help us balance demand for tourism accommodations with the need for more housing across the province.”

Dave de Jongh, who owns and operates Seawind Landing Country Inn in Charlos Cove, Guysborough County, said the new rules and the existing act has done little to remedy the problem of STRs for those in the tourism accommodation industry.

In an interview at Seawind Landing on Nov. 18, de Jongh said, “There’s no difference between this set of rules and the set of rules that were passed and promulgated. This is an amendment to the act and regulation with the only thing that’s done differently is inclusion of shared accommodation listings; so, if you’re renting a room in your house on occasion, you would have to register, whereas previously you didn’t. There is no other change. There is no will on the part of the government or the administration to enforce it.”

In a tight market, de Jongh said STRs are competitors that don't have to pay the same taxes or incur overhead costs that registered tourism operators face.

"We’ve talked for a long time about the unlevel playing field and the need to address the growing number of unregistered market participants.”

In the past five years, de Jongh said, the popularity of STR platforms, “has grown dramatically but there’s been no effort whatsoever to keep pace with it in terms of regulation or oversight.”

Asked what he would like to see the government do to address the situation, de Jongh said, “I think quite simply, they have to use the tools that are available to enforce the regulations. There are two objectives I guess: one is looking at it from the housing crisis perspective and the other is looking at it from my perspective which is tourism, and the impact there is, we have a market that is flooded with accommodation properties that far exceed the demand. We have a lot of market participants that aren’t singing from the same song sheet. That aren’t taking part in any of the Tourism Nova Scotia programs or education or have any awareness whatsoever of the tourism objectives of the province. They’re just skimming the cream.”

And de Jongh is not the only tourism operator that feels this way. He told The Journal, “We are members of a couple of inn keepers associations of course and are in contact with lots of people in the industry; and from TIANS (Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia) on down to individual operators, for the past five years, there’s been a large cry over the uncontrolled growth of the market and the resulting problems that come from that.”

Changes to the Tourist Accommodation Registration Act passed in April 2022 removed a registration exemption for short-term rentals operated in or attached to the host’s primary residence. The changes also require accommodations to verify they comply with municipal land-use bylaws.

Legislative amendments and regulations requiring all short-term rentals in the province to register by April 1, 2023, have been proclaimed.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal