Slow start to Nova Scotia’s short-term rental registry as industry ravaged by COVID-19

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Nova Scotia’s newly established short-term rental registry is off to a slow start as the province says it is focusing on education rather than implementing fines.

The registry is the tool that Nova Scotia was going to use to regulate a booming short-term rental industry that’s been conducted through services like Airbnb or HomeAway.

Data from Statistics Canada indicate that in 2018, the year with the latest available data, private short-term rentals in the province generated an estimated $70.85 million in revenue.

Read more: Nova Scotia attempts to find balance as it prepares to regulate its $70M short-term rental market

That was a dramatic increase from 2015, when revenue was estimated at only $1.115 million.

The registry was set to begin on April 1 and required all “roofed tourist accommodations” in the province to register to operate if they “provide accommodations for 28 days or less, unless they are in [their] primary residence” said Tracy Barron, a spokesperson for the province’s Department of Business, in a statement.
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That includes all short-term rental properties like those offered on Airbnb as well as more traditional hospitality operations like hotels and bed and breakfasts.

But as of July 31, only 542 properties have registered.

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An independent study the government cited when they announced modifications to the Tourist Accommodation Registration Act in 2019 estimated there were approximately 2,100 short-term rental properties in Nova Scotia.

Barron said the novel coronavirus pandemic has likely slowed the adoption of the registry. She said the province delayed implementing its outreach and marketing until July as a result of COVID-19.

“We are sending letters to properties who have not yet registered and working with tourism partners to encourage registration,” she said.

“This is a very busy time for our tourism operators. We are focusing right now on informing operators of the new requirement and encouraging registration.”

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Read more: Short-term rentals impacting Halifax’s rental market

Operators can register their property on the government’s website, here.

Other operators of short-term rental units may also be pivoting to long-term tenants during the pandemic as tourism shrunk dramatically in response to public health rules and travel restrictions.

The province said it is focusing on education as they monitor whether tourism is picking up again from the opening of the Atlantic bubble.

For those businesses that continue to operate but do not register, the Tourist Accommodation Registration Act includes a provision that allows a fine up to $1,000 per day to an annual maximum of $7,500.

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Information on the registry is meant to be shared within the provincial government and municipalities in order to “inform bylaw or policy amendments,” Barron said.

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The province will also look to review the information after the first year of the new registry to see if changes are needed.

Information and data on the registry will be posted to the province’s website “soon,” Barron said.

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