If a Planning Committee recommendation is approved, Hamilton is going ahead with the licensing and regulation of short-term rentals through booking platforms like Airbnb; but with some modifications to the plan put forward by staff. The big change is that corporations who buy up apartments to rent through the booking portal are out of luck. From here on, Hamilton will require all short-term-rentals (STRs) be in the principal residence of the homeowner, who will have to pay a $300 licensing fee. In addition to cutting big commercial operators out of the STR business, the change will also affect smaller operators who may own one residence besides their principal residence. They will no longer be eligible for an STR license for that second property.
A number of this latter category were among the more than two dozen individuals who appeared as delegations to the committee. Some of the delegates wrote that the short-term-rentals are the only way they can afford to keep their homes, because of higher interest rates. The new plan will allow STRs to be established in secondary residences on the same property as the owner’s principal residence—so called laneway houses.
Licensees will be required to keep a log of their bookings and have it available for inspection. The committee rejected a staff recommendation that operators be limited to 120 days of rental per year. Under the amendment put forward by councillor John Paul Danko, there will be no limitation of the number of days an STR can be rented. Under the Landlord and Tenant Act anyone who occupies a rental property for more than 28 days is considered a permanent tenant and comes under the protection of the act when it comes to evictions and raising rents. Staff acknowledged that a person could occupy a unit for 28 days, leave for a day and then re-rent the room without falling under the act.
Enforcement may be a challenge as the staff plan calls for only two and a quarter staff and a vehicle to be hired to administer the program, which is expected to recover costs through the licensing fees. Some councillors participating in the lengthy discussion appeared to be of the mindset that the crackdown would provide relief to the current housing crisis by forcing short-term-rentals back on the long-term rental market; however, several of those who delegated against the changes reported they had previously been long term landlords, but had to switch to the STR model after negative experiences with bad tenants who were difficult to evict. Housing advocate Emily Power, who favored the licensing proposal, told committee members that the large corporate operators represented about half of Hamilton’s STR market, which is in line with Toronto and Vancouver. She told the committee that Hamilton has 1,300 active STR units, 80 percent of which are classified as entire-home listings.