Short-term rentals will be regulated in Hamilton – Hamilton, Burlington and GTA

If a planning committee recommendation is approved, Hamilton moves forward with licensing and regulating short-term rentals through booking platforms like Airbnb; but with some modifications to the plan presented by the staff. The big change is that companies that buy apartments for rent through the booking portal are out of luck. Effective immediately, Hamilton will require all short-term rentals (STRs) to be in the owner’s primary residence, who will be charged a $300 licensing fee. In addition to eliminating large commercial operators from STR business, the change will also affect small operators who may own a residence in addition to their primary residence. They will no longer be eligible for an STR license for this second property.

A number of the latter category were among the more than two dozen people who appeared as delegations to the committee. Some of the delegates wrote that short-term rentals are the only way for them to keep their homes, due to higher interest rates. The new plan will allow STRs to be established in second homes on the same property as the owner’s primary residence, known as lane homes.

Licensees will be required to keep a log of their bookings and make it available for inspection. The committee rejected a staff recommendation that operators be limited to 120 rental days per year. Under the amendment proposed by Councilor John Paul Danko, there will be no limitation on the number of days an STR can be rented. Under the Landlords and Tenants Act, anyone who occupies a rental property for more than 28 days is considered a permanent tenant and falls under the protection of the law against eviction and rent increases. The staff recognized that a person could occupy a unit for 28 days, leave for a day and then re-let the room without falling under the law.

Applying can be a challenge because the staffing plan only calls for two and a quarter staff and a vehicle to hire to administer the program, which is expected to recover costs through license fees. Some councilors taking part in the lengthy discussion seemed to think the crackdown would bring relief to the current housing crisis by forcing short-term rentals back into the long-term rental market; however, several of those who opposed the changes indicated that they were previously long-term landlords, but had to switch to the STR model after negative experiences with bad tenants who were hard to evict. Housing lawyer Emily Power, who was in favor of the license proposal, told committee members that large companies accounted for only about 4% of Hamilton’s STR market, where they accounted for up to 50% of the market in Toronto and Vancouver.

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