Kingston City Council approved new regulations for short-term renters (STR) in December, including homeowners that use services like AirBnB or VRBO.
“Essentially, City Council approved the passage of a short-term rental by-law and a licensing program,” said Dan Hazell, Supervisor of Licensing & Enforcement in the Building & Enforcement department of the City of Kingston.
“The program included a self-remittance method for STR operators that will allow them to self-remit the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) collected from their operations quarterly directly to the City of Kingston’s Taxation Department through the Hamari platform that is operated by LTAS Technologies.”
The decision came on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, after the regularly scheduled council meeting the night before ran long. Of particular concern in the discussion was the choice between allowing STR operators to use AirBnB’s existing platform, or to introduce a third-party service Hamari Technology Platform offered by LTAS Technologies Inc.
Ultimately, the City went with Hamari, despite concerns raised during delegations from three STR operators who use AirBnB, and a wariness about privacy raised by Councillor Ryan Boehme.
AirBnb or Hamari
Boehme read Hamari’s terms and conditions aloud to Council during the meeting, quoting references to the collection of video evidence and hand-delivered letters to STR operators.
“I’m not sure how you get audio and video evidence, and put notes under doors without actually being at the residence and that’s from their own literature,” Boehme said. “You can’t make this stuff up.”
He also said that entering into an $18,000 contract with Hamari to crack down on non-compliant hosts might be “spending money to solve a problem we don’t even know that we have.” Boehme and STR operators speaking in delegation proposed starting out with AirBnB to collect the MAT, before pursing a third party.
“Let’s try something first before we hit it with a hammer,” he said.
Ultimately Hazell said Hamari won out in part because of its broader applicability. “The Hamari platform allows STR operators who operate on more than one rental platform or who use other rental platforms to self-remit their MAT directly to the City,” Hazell said.
Kingston STR Operators speak up
The City’s Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) Implementation Plan for short-term rental operators reaches back to 2018, when Council passed a motion to direct staff to recommend a short-term rental licensing program, a short-term rental licensing by-law, and to report back with amendments to the MAT By-Law to include short-term rentals.
Numerous reports have gone before Council and City committees since then, with the report presented in December replacing two previous recommendations from February 13, 2020 and December 2019.
Council has authorized the Mayor and Clerk to execute a contract for up to one year with LTAS Technologies Inc. for the provision of Address Identification in relation to STR accommodations, in a form satisfactory to the Director of Legal Services and City Solicitor.
Council heard delegations from numerous community members on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. JJ Fueser spoke on behalf of Fairbnb Canada, a watchdog coalition that critiques AirBnb’s impact on housing markets, as well other practices.
Megan Knott, Executive Director, Tourism Kingston, and Krista LeClair, Executive Director, Kingston Accommodation Partners spoke about the potential for STR operators to participate in local Accommodation committees and organizations.
STR operators Ron Hartling, Adrienne Montgomerie, and Kurt Khan described their operations and spoke in favour of proceeding with AirBnB.
The recommendation to move forward with Hamari ultimately passed with eight in favour, and with Councillors Ryan Boehme, Gary Oosterof, Simon Chapelle, and Jeff McLaren opposed.