A group of consumer advocates is warning against additional regulations for home share services after Windsor city council agreed to move forward with adding regulations.
David Clement, with Consumer Choice Center, said adding regulations can make home sharing services more expensive.
“When local governments go down this road, they almost always add in a licensing fee,” said Clement. “That licensing fee is usually just a cash grab.”
Regulations passed in Toronto last year are under appeal by Airbnb owners in the city, while the city of Vancouver is calling regulations put in place there a success.
According to Clement, more often than not, the regulations that are passed are redundant.
East Windsor resident Kipp Baker said the home share in his neighbourhood leaves their garbage cans out all week long.
“Garbage pails blowing down the street,” is Baker’s main concern. “They put their garbage out on a Sunday or Monday but pickup isn’t until Thursday.”
Baker is worried about skunks and raccoons getting into the garbage and making a mess, especially as it gets warmer outside.
According to Baker, the home share near him is mostly rented on weekends, but the homeowner doesn’t live on site.
“The owners live in Vancouver, but I know bylaw officers are leaving paperwork in the mailbox,” said Baker, who has seen a City of Windsor bylaw vehicle out front “at least three times.”
Bill Tetler, with Windsor’s bylaw enforcement, said they don’t cover home share services.
“We could have been there for a wide range of issues,” said Tetler.
In Windsor, garbage and garbage pails can only be put out for collection after 7 p.m. the night before collection. The empty bins have to be brought back off the curb by 8 p.m. the day of collection.
Doesn’t matter if homeowner lives off-site
According to Tetler, it doesn’t matter if the house is used for home share purposes, or if the homeowner lives off site — there’s a set fine for leaving garbage can out when they aren’t supposed to be out.
“The simple solution is applying whatever fines exist, or applying the bylaws as they are written, to whomever the homeowner is,” said Clement. “There has to be a way to communicate with those folks without them being on site.”
Tetler said bylaw officers, in the event of an absent homeowner, would leave warnings and tickets on the door or in the mailbox. If it got to an extreme point, bylaw enforcement could call the homeowner to appear in court. Someone would have to file a complaint for bylaw officers to go in the first place.
Home share platforms ‘regulate themselves’
When it comes to safety measures, Clement said platforms regulate themselves, and additional government regulations on top of that “just make the process more burdensome for hosts.”
“There is an incentive practice built into the rating schemes for these services,” said Clement. “There’s a shift towards encouraging best practices. The system is set up to discourage [behaving improperly].”
Baker said there have been loud parties and crowded street parking because of the home share in his neighbourhood — but even though he wants regulations in place, he doesn’t know what could be done.
“It should be simple,” said Baker, pointing to bylaw enforcement taking more initiative — something the department in Windsor doesn’t have the resources to do.
Clement said one solution might be for home sharing services to add a “comments from neighbours” section — but that really people should just go knock on the front door.
“I’d encourage people to talk to their neighbours,” said Clement. “Have a civil discussion about what is and isn’t working.”
Katherine Donaldson, corporate policy coordinator for the city of Windsor said Windsor would likely not move forward with regulations until a decision was made from the Toronto appeal.
“Until we get that precedent from the Toronto case, the Toronto appeal, we aren’t moving forward with any of the other considerations until we get that legal framework.”