Confusion clouds new STR rules

Confusion clouds new STR rules

There’s more confusion around short-term rentals (STRs) in Charlottetown following a decision Tuesday night to delay implementing a new licensing bylaw. But despite this delay, city staff say the regulatory framework is in place to regulate STRs in the city.

Let me break it all down for you.

What was passed in January 2022? Council passed amendments to its zoning bylaw to define and regulate STRs as a tourist home, which was an existing home occupation already permitted in the city. Home occupations are allowed within residential areas, but require that the property be the primary residence of the business owner. The zoning changes also made it a requirement that STRs be licensed by the province. An agreement is in place with the province that it will require a confirmation letter from the city stating that a property meets the zoning requirements.

STR Licensing Bylaw: With land use and occupation issues covered under zoning rules, the city then wanted to create its own licensing process that would add additional requirements to the approval process. It would also allow the city to collect a hotel levy. A new STR  licensing bylaw was introduced to council on March 13. The bylaw was expected to be approved before the new zoning rules came into force on March 28.

Why a deferral? Everything was going smoothly until March 16 when fire destroyed a building in Montreal, claiming seven lives. The building was being used illegally as an STR operation. People who managed to escape the inferno have been reporting that some units had no windows or working smoke detectors. This was cause for alarm back home in Charlottetown, leaving some staff at city hall wondering if the city’s proposed licensing bylaw went far enough in terms of life safety inspections.

Staff brought these concerns to the planning committee with a recommendation their concerns be brought to council and implantation of the new bylaw be deferred until October 31. Council approved the request, and now the licensing bylaw is on hold.

Can STRs operate legally in Charlottetown? City staff says yes. The city’s zoning bylaw allows the planning board to issue home occupation permits. To get a permit, an operator would pay a $50 application fee, the city would then verify that the property and proposed use complies with zoning rules before issuing a permit. The operator would then show that permit to the province to obtain a provincial tourism accommodation license.

Has anyone applied for a tourist accommodation permit? Since March 2022, the city’s planning board has approved 47 applications for a tourist accommodation home occupation permit. One application was denied. I’ve added the location of these approved home occupations to this map.

Any red flags so far? A couple. I compared all of the permit approvals with provincial tax records. From what I can tell, the vast majority of these approvals meet the requirements of being owner-occupied.

​However, several permits left me scratching my head. For example, a permit was issued for a property on Kent Street but tax records show the owner of the property lives in Alberta. Another property, located on Fitzroy Street, is owned by a corporation with a registered address in Stratford; the two directors of the corporation share that same address in Stratford. There’s another on Bishop Street, according to tax records, the owner of that property lives in Lake Verde with his wife.

There are several other inconsistencies like these examples, but it’s impossible for me to know exactly how the city assesses these applications to determine if the owner-occupied rule is being met.

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