Politicians move towards regulating short-term rentals in London

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Changes could be coming to short-term rental properties in the city of London.

Politicians sitting on the community and protective services committee Wednesday afternoon were unanimously in favour of establishing licensing rules for hosts of short-term rentals.

That includes Airbnb, Vrbo, Homeaway and other websites where you can rent a home or room for a short period of time.

If the move is approved by the full council, city staff will then draw up a set of rules that would require all hosts of short-term rental properties, and the websites, to be licensed.

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Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, the city’s bylaw manager Orest Katolyk said requiring a licence will help London better manage the industry.

“Some bedrooms don’t have windows, some of the ceiling heights don’t meet our property standards, so it’d be beneficial from a consumer protection and public safety perspective to inspect these buildings.”

Short-term rentals would also be required to be inspected and pass the fire code before accepting guests.

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Coun. Phil Squire has had both good and bad experiences using Airbnb rentals, and although he admits the overall quality of units has decreased since he first started using the services, he is concerned about the possibility of “over-bureaucratizing Airbnb,” insisting that the industry needs to remain flexible to be effective.

“Things have certainly changed. When we started out, they were usually in a person’s home… Now, very often my wife and I are seeing separate apartments in a complex from an owner who has multiple properties in the city.”

According to Airbnb, there are roughly 1,100 active listings in London and hosts earned a combined total of $7.7 million in 2019.

City staff have received an increasing number of concerns regarding parking, noise and other nuisances.

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Last summer, a wild high school party in Old South left $80,000 of damage in its wake. Seven young people were charged in relation to the ordeal.

“Some of these short-term rentals are not being rented out for overnight stays, they’re being rented out for proms and other types of party activities,” Katolyk said.

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Airbnb has made changes to crack down on “party houses,” including restricting people younger than 25 from renting out entire houses unless they already have a good track record on the platform.

A public participation meeting is required before any final decisions are made by city council.

Other Canadian municipalities are dealing with similar issues. In Toronto, licensing of short-term rental companies and registration of operators will begin in the spring.

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