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City addresses speculation about short-term rental data

Kingston City Hall.

The City of Kingston, which is currently in the process of creating a by-law to license and regulate short-term rentals, is responding to speculation and questions circulating about some of the data collection being proposed.

The potential by-law is being addressed on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Administrative Policies Committee after being deferred by Council in December of 2019.

Part of the proposed by-law would include an agreement with Host Compliance, a Seattle-based company who bills itself on Twitter as ‘rental compliance monitoring and enforcement solutions for local governments.’

“We wanted to clarify and be transparent about the actual process being proposed” said Paige Agnew, Commissioner of Community Services for the city in a statement. “[Host Compliance] would scan online ads and listings to identify the addresses of short-term rental properties to be licensed.”

Host Compliance, operates by taking publicly available information, such as listings on sites like AirBnB, to determine the location of each rental and focuses on the address and unit rather than the person who listed it, according to the City.

Once a short list of addresses has been isolated, Host Compliance then uses analysts to determine the exact address and, where possible, the unit number. This is done without visiting the properties, creating fake listings, or contacting hosts.

“Host Compliance hosts data on System and Organizational Controls 2 (SOC 2) compliant servers located in Canada,” the City said in a statement. “This is the highest standard of privacy security available on the market [and] is subject to standard data retention policies. The data they would collect on behalf of the City of Kingston would be stored on secure servers, encrypted, and only made available to authorized City personnel via secure web connections.”

The city also notes that Host Compliance is compliant with Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). The privacy page on the Host Compliance doesn’t specifically list MFIPPA.

Kingston Accommodation Partners (KAP) is also looking to Host Compliance, noting in a letter to Council that the requirements for invoicing, payment processing, late payment calculations and direct deposits were key to their selection of the company.

While KAP will be paying for the software rental activity and collection components, the city is looking to pay $17,939 from the existing Building & Enforcement Services budget for its first year of operation, and plans to fund future years through short-term rental licensing fees.

Information gathered, the city notes, would “be used only for enforcing the short-term rental by-law.”

The proposed by-law, if approved at committee, would be presented to Council in March.

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8 thoughts on “City addresses speculation about short-term rental data

  • February 10, 2020 at 10:20 pm
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    There is a lot of misinformation in this email from the City. Short-Term Rentals on the Airbnb platform do not contain publicly available information. It is all private. The only time the guest knows the address and other information on an Airbnb location is AFTER they have made the booking. The city well knows this yet they continue with the fabrication that Host Compliance will be collecting public information. This is simply not true.
    The question is, why is the City treating short-term rental hosts like criminals? Why threaten us with fines ranging from $500 to $25,000? We have always said that we are willing to pay the 4% Municipal Accomodation Tax, voluntarily, just like hotels and motels have been doing for the last few years. Is the City hunting down property owners to pay their property taxes? Maybe that is next.
    Instead of the City hiring a doxing company to spy on us, at a rate of over $20,000 per year of taxpayer money, just treat us like business people.
    It seems that the hotel lobby is very threatened by short-term rentals and is trying to drive us out of business.
    If you don’t believe me, look at the language in the staff report for the upcoming Administrative Policies Committee, meeting at 5:30at City Hall. Come and see your tax dollars and work. And form your own opinions, keeping in mind Council elections happen again in 2022.

    • February 11, 2020 at 8:48 pm
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      My sentiments exactly. I also feel that a US based company is a wrong choice on so many levels. What kind of gov’t are we getting at City Hall? Scary to say the least !!

  • February 10, 2020 at 10:37 pm
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    This is misleading information. Host Compliance is a US company that is essentially using Spyware. Doxing is the terminology. Information about an Airbnb Host’s address is not available until a booking is made, and then only to the guest. The City wants to regulate Short-Term-Rentals and impose a 4% Accommodation tax, plus a licensing fee.The tax is not unreasonable, but the assumption is that Airbnb Hosts are somehow tax-evading criminals and can’t be trusted to pay. Why don’t they ask Airbnb to take it at source? Instead, they want to use tax-payers’ money to hire a US company–subject to the Patriot Act–to spy on Canadian citizens. It’s the thin edge of the wedge, and actually illegal, given our privacy laws. This is heavy-handed intimidation from the Hotel Lobby, who are clearly threatened by Airbnb.

  • February 11, 2020 at 11:28 am
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    I find it to be entirely unacceptable that governments use American companies to perform tasks that could be done by Canadians.

  • February 11, 2020 at 4:07 pm
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    The tactics used by Host Compliance is actually called internet scraping. Is just as it sounds. Not publicly available data but rather scraped through surveillance techniques of many social media platforms to extrapolate a likely address and likely profile of rental activity. Why not just ask us to register our rentals. Try that first instead of assuming we are all going to deny what we are doing.

  • February 11, 2020 at 8:49 pm
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    Kingston needs new elected officials who will make better choices for the industry

  • February 12, 2020 at 3:54 pm
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    AirBnB and the like should be heavily regulated if not illegal. Too many “Hosts” are just landlords who use it to get around tenant protection laws.

  • February 13, 2020 at 6:10 pm
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    thanks again Politicians for yet another tax grab, pandering to big business (Hotel chains this time).
    The average Joe wouldn’t be short term renting if they could actually afford the ever increasing electricity and gas, property tax on eroding services, insurance rates, general upkeep not to mention any out of sight mortgage on insane property valuations. People choose to BnB because they don’t want to rent to risky tenants who don’t pay, create damage and make life a living hell, a fairly high percentage in these parts… don’t believe me?, ask anyone who’s rented and they’ll have a story or two… perhaps its time to enact laws to protect the people paying the bills?

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