Short-term rentals have become wildly popular among Canadians. For vacationers, short-term rentals can be a great alternative to hotels, offering cheaper and more flexible options than many traditional hotels. For property owners, short-term rentals provide a unique alternative to residential tenancy arrangements. Furthermore, online resources like Airbnb—the most popular of the short-term rental resources in Canada—make it easier than ever to connect landlords with prospective tenants.
However, property owners interested in offering short-term rentals must know the rules governing Airbnb, which can vary significantly depending on your location. Below, we’ll discuss what Ottawa property owners need to know about offering short-term rentals through Airbnb.
What is Airbnb?
If you aren’t already familiar with Airbnb, it’s a short-term rental platform that connects prospective renters with property owners offering short-term rental services. Prospective renters use Airbnb’s website—a marketplace for owners to advertise their properties—to book vacation stays.
Who Governs Airbnb Rentals?
Short-term rentals are typically regulated and licensed through municipal by-laws, so specific regulations can vary between cities.
Recently, however, the Canadian government announced its intention to encourage municipalities to limit the supply of Airbnbs to increase the availability of long-term rentals across Canada, suggesting that further restrictions may be coming.
Airbnb and Ottawa’s Short-Term Rental By-law
In Ottawa, individuals who plan to offer short-term rentals must meet specific requirements and obtain a “Host Permit” if they plan on renting all or part of a residential unit for less than 30 consecutive nights.
Ottawa Airbnb Rentals and Specific Property Requirements
Short-term rentals, like Airbnb, are only permitted in certain areas and types of properties.
- Principal Residences: Individuals who plan to offer short-term rentals can only do so in their principal residence (in other words, the individual’s residential unit where they are ordinarily resident), regardless of whether they rent or own the property.
- Renters: If the individual is a renter, they must first obtain written consent from their landlord approving the use of the property for short-term rentals.
- Condominiums and Housing Co-operatives: Condominium or housing co-operative residents must also confirm that they can offer short-term rentals by their condominium corporation or housing co-operative.
- Cottages: Individuals who intend to rent cottages or rural properties can offer short-term “cottage rentals” by obtaining a separate permit. Individuals are entitled to apply for one Host Permit and one cottage rental permit.
Obtaining an Ottawa Airbnb Host Permit
Ottawa residents must also provide certain information to obtain a Host Permit. They will need to complete an application and meet the following requirements:
- Be 18 years old or older;
- Prove that they own or lease their property (and, if they rent, obtain written consent from their landlord to use the property for short-term rentals);
- Floor plans of the residence, including the number of bedrooms in the residence;
- Prove that the property is their principal residence;
- Prove that they have the appropriate insurance; and
- Pay the applicable fee.
Applicants must also provide a signed declaration affirming that they will comply with the requirements of Ottawa’s Short-Term Rental By-law.
Assuming that the application is successful, Host and Cottage Permits are valid for two years, after which they will need to apply again.
Obtaining an Ottawa Airbnb Cottage Permit
If an individual intends to obtain a Cottage Permit, they must meet the requirements for obtaining a Host Permit. However, they are not required to prove that the property in question is their personal residence for a Cottage Permit.
Obtaining a Short-Term Property Manager Permit
Individuals offering short-term rentals often seek the help of a property manager to handle the operational side of providing short-term rentals. In these cases, the property manager must complete an application to register as a property manager.
Property managers must complete an application and meet the following requirements:
- Be 18 years old or older;
- Provide a Criminal Records and Judicial Matters Check;
- Sign a declaration confirming that they have no outstanding criminal charges;
- Prove they have the appropriate insurance and
- Pay the applicable fee.
Limitations on Operating Airbnbs in Ottawa
After obtaining a Host Permit, short-term rental hosts must meet specific requirements outlined in Ottawa’s Short-Term Rental By-law, as follows:
Marketing Airbnbs in Ottawa
Hosts must only market their short-term rentals on short-term rental platforms registered in Ottawa (at this time, Airbnb is the only registered short-term rental platform).
Additionally, hosts must prominently display the serial number of their Host Permit and the maximum overnight guest limit in any marketing advertisements for their short-term rental.
Information for Guests in Airbnbs in Ottawa
Hosts must provide guests with an information package for their rental period, electronically (when the renter books their stay) and in print within the rental. This information must include:
- Contact information for the host or property manager;
- Emergency contact information;
- A floor plan;
- Notice of any onsite video or audio recording;
- Instructions for waste disposal;
- Instructions for parking;
- Instructions for smoking and vaping (which must comply with Ottawa’s Smoking and Vaping By-law);
- A schedule of offences and fines associated with guest activities (provided by the Director); and
- A copy of the host’s Host Permit.
Hosts must also advise guests, at the time of booking, whether any other individual will be present in the short-term rental during their stay.
Limits on Guest Numbers in Airbnbs in Ottawa
Under Ottawa’s Short-Term Rental By-law, hosts must not allow more than two individuals per bedroom in their short-term rental per night. The maximum number of bedrooms and guests permitted in a short-term rental each night is:
- Eight guests (in a dwelling or mobile home with four bedrooms);
- Ten guests (in an oversized dwelling unit with eight bedrooms); and
- Ten guests (in a legally non-conforming dwelling unit with eight bedrooms).
Additionally, hosts must ensure they have a functioning smoke alarm, a functioning carbon monoxide alarm (if the unit contains one or more fireplaces or fuel-burning appliances), and a functional ABC class fire extinguisher on each floor of the residential unit.
Maintaining Insurance for Airbnbs in Ottawa
Hosts must maintain appropriate insurance while operating a short-term rental. Under Ottawa’s Short-Term Rental By-law, appropriate insurance must include coverage for short-term rental activity and liability coverage of at least $1,000,000 per occurrence for personal or bodily injury, death, and property damage.
Applying to Prohibit an Airbnb in Ottawa
Landlords, condominium corporations, and housing co-operatives may apply to prohibit the operation of short-term rentals in their properties. In these cases, individuals applying for Host Permits will be ineligible to obtain a permit or current Host Permits will be revoked, as the case may be.
To apply for a prohibition, landlords, condominium corporations, and housing co-operatives must pay a fee (varying based on the number of units) and provide additional information, depending on the category.
Penalties for Failing to Comply with Ottawa’s Short-Term Rental By-law
If a host or property manager fails to comply with Ottawa’s Short-Term Rental By-law, they may be guilty of an offence and forced to pay a fine. The minimum fine is $500, and the maximum fine is $100,000 for each day the offence occurs (or continues to occur). Additionally, the Ontario Court of Justice may order the host or property manager to be prohibited from continuing or repeating the offence or require the person to correct the act in question.
Contact Ottawa Real Estate And Administrative Lawyers for Assistance With Short-Term Rentals
Whether you are dealing with municipal by-laws, zoning and land use, property development or other property matters, Tierney Stauffer LLP can help. We leverage our extensive knowledge of real estate law, administrative law, and municipal law to advocate for our clients’ rights and interests while assisting them to navigate the intricacies of local governance.
We are a team with diverse experience in multiple areas of the law, giving us the know-how to help clients with their short-term rental needs. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to discuss your matter with an experienced lawyer.