New city bylaw to limit short-term rentals to 10 guests

Airbnb stock photo

The number of guests permitted to stay in short-term rentals in Ottawa will be capped at 10 after city council approved a new bylaw Thursday aimed at more tightly regulating properties rented out on Airbnb and similar platforms.

Under the new rules, such rentals will be restricted to a host’s primary residence, effectively preventing corporations and other large owners from operating multiple properties as so-called “ghost hotels.”

Owners who rent their properties out on Airbnb and other home-sharing platforms will be required to pay $110 for a permit that will be valid for two years. Short-term rentals outside an operator’s primary residence would still be permitted at cottages or coach houses in rural areas. 

Short-term rentals are considered to be units that provide fewer than 30 consecutive nights of accommodation.

Under the new bylaw, hosts can have their permits revoked for violations such as criminal activity, unpaid fees, overcrowding or behaviour that endangers public health or safety, and both operators and guests can be fined up to $100,000. 

The new policy will be in place for the next three years while the city assesses its impact on the market. 

Staff’s original bylaw proposal approved by a joint city committee last week called for a cap of either 16 or 32 people, depending on the guests’ ages and the number of sleeping rooms at the property. The bylaw was amended after some councillors complained about the number of large groups staying in residential neighbourhoods.

Tax-cut consultations approved

Also on Wednesday, council directed staff to seek public input on a proposal that would see City Hall create a new small-business property tax subclass. 

The change would effectively cut property taxes by 10 per cent at about 4,700 commercial properties housing nearly 8,000 small businesses in Ottawa.

Under the plan, property owners would be required to pass savings on to tenants or their discount would be revoked. Eligible properties would include most small offices, hotels, mainstreet retail spaces, restaurants, bars, daycares and sports clubs as well as commercial and industrial condos and shopping centres under 15,000 square feet.

City staff will now conduct public consultations and present a report to council before the end of September.