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City surveys attitudes on Airbnb, other rentals

Some Londoners are losing patience with the delays for rules for short-term house and apartment rentals done through Airbnb, VRBO, and other online sites.

City council will debate a report from city staff outlining the options for regulation later in 2018 — it was pushed back because of other pressures on staff — but in the meantime, the city’s launched a survey for renters, hosts and residents to share their thoughts - writes lfpress.com.

It took 18 months for the city to land on a bylaw that covers taxis and Uber, and the issue still crops up at city hall every few months.

Regulation of Airbnb and similar rental sites doesn’t seem to be moving much quicker.

But it will become particularly important if council decides it wants to slap the four per cent accommodation tax that soon will be added to hotel and motel bills onto Airbnb rentals, too.

Collecting that money without having short-term rentals under some kind of city bylaw would be tough.

But Airbnb hosts such as Candace Keeling don’t think London needs any rules for Airbnb.

“My biggest concern is over-­regulating it to the point it’s going to cost hosts money and travellers money in the end,” she said. “My fear is that Airbnb will lose its value.”

There’s no doubt Airbnb is popular in London. More than 400 hosts used the site last year, with about 540 active listings. The average guest stayed for four nights.

Keeling argued the only regulation Airbnb needs is already built in.

“The app itself already checks ID. It goes through its own security process. Plus, they have the review system, which establishes a level of trust between hosts and travellers,” she said.

Orest Katolyk, the city’s bylaw boss, said there have been very few complaints about those sorts of short-term rentals in London. But other cities have struggled with rentals turning into party central.

“What we’ve found in other municipalities, it’s the bad apples that create the issues,” Katolyk said. “We haven’t concluded that restrictions are necessary, but we want to give council some options.”

Politicians could decide not to regulate short-term rentals at all, or introduce licensing fees and annual inspections. Some cities limit hosts to “owner-occupied rentals” to discourage people renting out rooms in an investment property, like an unlicensed hotel.

The goal of city rules is to make sure Airbnb rentals don’t disrupt neighbourhoods and create trouble, Katolyk said.

But Keeling said city council shouldn’t target Airbnb and other short-term rental sites.

“There can always be problems popping up in any rental situations,” she said, arguing renters understand what they’re getting when they use Airbnb.

“People should have the freedom to choose,” she said.

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