A Win for Hotels in Kelowna against Commercial Short-Term Rental Operators

Yesterday evening, the City of Kelowna defeated a motion to allow short-term rentals in secondary suites and carriage homes. This decision marks a final legislative step to license and regulate short-term accommodations like Airbnb in the city. Under the new rules, anyone operating a short-term rental must apply for and be issued a business licence by July 1, 2019. Short-term rentals are also limited to principal residences only for periods of 29 days or less.
 
This is great news for the hotel industry as this will eliminate the commercial side of Airbnb’s business (and other similar platforms) that have been operating at a distinct competitive and thus unfair advantage over hotels. Additionally, this decision will help sustain affordable long-term rental housing in the City and will afford workers in the City, many who work for hotels, a reborn chance at finding housing in, or at least closer to the City.
 
The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC), in partnership with the British Columbia Hotel Association and the Kelowna Hotel Motel Association, launched a campaign in Kelowna in the weeks leading up to the public hearings.  These efforts were successful at mobilizing hoteliers and other coalition partners to present at the hearings, send in letters & submissions to Council and make their voices heard on social media against a strong Airbnb lobby which included several community hosts.
 
This legislation is significant because it builds upon a growing list of jurisdictions aiming to limit the unfair business practices that Airbnb and other similar platforms are conducting in our communities.

It is important to note, however, that platform enforcement was not included in this legislation. It is vital that short-term rental operators like Airbnb be held accountable for listings on their sites. For example, in the City of San Francisco (and in the City of Toronto’s proposed legislation), short-term rental operators must remove illegal listings on their platforms or face significant monetary penalties. Although in the City of Kelowna’s legislation platform accountability it is not included, the City is holding individual short-term rental hosts accountable for their listings. The City is achieving this through two measures. One, the City maintains the right to issue fines up to $500 per day, per offence – with higher amounts if compliance efforts require escalation. And two, the City maintains the right to inspect short-term rental accommodations if they so request. Moving forward, HAC, in partnership with the local and provincial hotel associations, will push for an additional platform-specific accountability piece.
 
HAC congratulates Kelowna City Council on approving the licensing requirements and regulations for short-term rental accommodations, limiting rentals only to one’s principal residence. Kelowna is moving in the right direction and this decision paves the way for other Canadian jurisdictions to follow. As municipalities across the country continue to grapple with this issue, HAC will continue to work with its coalition partners and hotel industry advocates in order to ensure fair rules and regulations are put in place for the hotel sector.

Thank you to our members for your support during this campaign.

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