Airbnb needs regulation, Calgary bed and breakfast owner tells province

Airbnb needs regulation, Calgary bed and breakfast owner tells province

The owner of a Calgary bed and breakfast wants the provincial government to regulate home-sharing services like Airbnb.

Jonathon Lloyd has run the Calgary Westways Guest House in Mission for the past 24 years. He said the sharing economy is hurting businesses like his.

This week, he sent a letter to the provincial minister of culture and tourism, Ricardo Miranda. 

In it, Lloyd writes that it's time for the province to level the playing field for different types of accommodation.

He points out that unregulated homeowners who offer short-term accommodations through websites like Airbnb aren't required to get business permits. They aren't inspected for fire, safety or building code compliance.

They also don't collect the province's tourism levy, pay GST and they aren't inspected by Alberta Health Services for providing food or food preparation spaces — all rules that other accommodation businesses must comply with.

"There should be some form of regulations in place to level this playing field," said Lloyd.

Public safety a concern

Besides the money that governments miss out on from home-sharing hosts who operate outside the rules that govern the accommodation industry, Lloyd said he's also worried about the safety of consumers who stay in houses or condos which haven't been inspected.

He tells CBC News that he's watched the home-sharing economy grow rapidly in the past couple of years. Where there were about 40 potential Airbnb sites two years ago, Lloyd said there are now 300 or more — similar to what Airbnb displays for other major cities.

In his letter to the government, Lloyd spells out four things he'd like to see the province do:

- Apply the province's tourism levy to all short-term accommodation providers.

- Have Alberta Health Services expand inspections of all short-term accommodation properties that provide food or beverages.

- Allow municipalities to inspect short-term accommodations to ensure they comply with building codes regarding smoke detectors.

- Require home-sharing companies to collect the tourism levy from their clients.

Lloyd said unless the rules in the accommodation industry apply across the board, he can see more bed and breakfast operators changing the way they conduct business.

When asked if it's a case of 'if you can't beat them, join them,' Lloyd said that's a likely conclusion.

"Do I change my operations to reflect today's reality?"

He said his business so far this year is down 10 to 15 per cent. While he thinks it might be partially due to economic conditions, he suspects it's more than likely related to the hundreds of unregulated accommodations he competes against in the Calgary area. 

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