The Long and Short of Short-Term Rentals

As an Alberta condo owner, your unit is your property – so, it stands to reason that you should be able to do whatever you want with it (within reason [and taking local legal considerations into account!]), right? And you mostly can!

 

“Mostly” being the operative word there, of course.

 

Here’s the thing. Part of the role of your condo board is to ensure the security and safety of all residents within the building. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing proliferation of short-term rental companies such as Airbnb and Homeaway in recent years, maintaining that sense of security has become a bit more complicated, causing local municipal legislation and condo board bylaws to scramble to keep up. After all, it’s no simple proposal to ensure that your building’s safe and secure when it plays host to a veritable revolving door of short-term renters!

 

Let’s dig into the details.

Things to Think About Regarding Short-Term Rentals

Wait, Hold Up – What Exactly Is a Short-Term Rental, Again?

Before we go too deep into things, let’s take a moment to make sure we’ve got our terminology straight.

 

A short-term rental is an agreement in which you rent out your property for a day, a week, or even a couple of months at a time (once you start hitting rentals agreements for six months or longer, you’re typically firmly in “normal” rental territory). Companies such as Airbnb have made it easy to connect individuals with properties for short-term rent, benefitting both the property owner (the host) and the renting individual.

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, short-term rentals can come with their fair share of concerns – including the fact that the nature of these brisk agreements typically means that perfunctory details like background checks, etc. don’t have a home within the overall process. That’s where municipal governments have stepped in with legislation to try and bring some order to things.

How the Wild West (of Short-Term Rentals) Was Won

It took the powers-that-be a moment to catch up with legislation and licensing to help regulate the short-term rental industry in Alberta – but catch up they have. Calgary, for example, has put together the following requirements to help contribute to the safety of short-term renters and the quality of life of fellow condo community members:

 

  • Since February 1, 2020, Calgarians have needed to obtain a business license to rent out their property on a short-term basis.
  • Owners are required to navigate a tiered licensing system according to the size of the property they’ll be renting out.
  • One-to-four-bedroom rentals cost condo owners a $100 licensing fee. In contrast, larger property owners are being asked to pony up $191 for licensing, in addition to an extra $104 for the now-mandatory fire inspection.
  • Additional stipulations include that no more than two guests may be lodged in the same room, every bedroom needs to have a window, the owner must post emergency contact information within the residence, and that overlapping bookings are a strict no-no.

 

With an estimated 6000 properties available for short-term rental in Calgary, these new licensing regulations are helping to bring some regulation and accountability to the Airbnb marketplace here in YYC. It is also bringing in some extra cash for the area that we’re sure our city council isn’t too displeased with, either.

By the Way – Your Condo Board’s Likely Got Some Bylaws, Too

Hopefully, the above rundown gives all of our readership a good grasp of what the City’s looking for in short-term rentals – but what about when it comes to your individual condo community? In requiring a business license to hustle your property out on Airbnb, you’re suddenly running a small business out of your condo every time you rent your unit out. Some condo boards strictly forbid owners from operating any sort of business out of their condo unit.

 

On the flip side, from a board member’s perspective, the pivot towards Airbnb rentals as businesses is undoubtedly an empowering one. It gives the board much more authority to govern or even shut down a disruptive unit’s ability to offer up short-term rentals, creating a level of accountability and potentially even addressing some of the ongoing concerns condo owners have about short-term rentals as a whole.

Work with Your Condo Board (In Good Faith!) 

Part and parcel with condo ownership is the understanding that you, as an owner, will work to abide by the board’s rules and regulations. The shift towards short-term rentals as businesses gives condo boards much more authority over these comings and goings than they had previously. If they don’t like what they’re seeing, you run the risk of being shut down – regardless of how that impacts your cash flow situation.

 

Depending on your board, there’s likely room to work with them on the opposite end of things as well. Peddling your unit out for short-term rentals is a far cry from the idea of “business,” as your condo board may have envisioned it while initially penning its bylaw statutes. If your condo bylaws do contain notes about business operation, it’s probably worth firing off a quick email to your board to see about sorting out an arrangement or revisiting those bylaws.

One Last Point

While keeping all of the above in mind, we’ve always been all about transparency here at Catalyst, So, it’s worth noting that there is something of a small loophole to be found through all this if your board becomes drunk on its newfound power and authority.

 

The City of Calgary defines short-term rentals as lasting 30 days or less – so it follows that if you can snag a few longer-term short-term rentals, you can sidestep the whole business licensing issue altogether. Of course, this may dramatically impact your ability to find and secure tenants – but some business is better than no business, right?

 

The short-term rental move from side-gig to legit business is a bit of a complex one and comes with all the ups and downs you might expect. So be sure to go in knowledgeable, and don’t be afraid to suggest that your board review its bylaws if they seem to be relying on an outdated notion of what makes a business, well, a business. Want to learn about how you might be impacted come February 1, 2020? Have further questions about joining your condo board? Contact us at Catalyst Condo Management today – we’ll be happy to chat!