Council defers decision on short term rental fines as hosts delay registering

Kingston City Council have deferred a motion to introduce set fine amounts for short term rental hosts who do not license their business with the city. 

The fines proposed could take the provincial courts out of the process, with city staff recommending $250, $500 and $750 plus court costs for violations of the Short-term Rental Licensing Bylaw.

Jenna Morley, Director of Legal Services with the city, said enacting set fines would follow suit with a number of other bylaws in the city, and simplify the process as a whole. 

"What we're simply allowing tonight is for an opportunity to settles these matters out of court by giving individuals an option to just pay a ticket," Morley said. 

In June, city staff recommended that violations of the short-term rental bylaw be fined through the administrative monetary penalties system, with fines ranging from roughly $100-$200.

The cost of licensing a short term rental is $180 under the bylaw, and as of last night's meeting only 44 hosts, or roughly 40 percent of short term listings identified, had registered.

Ron Hartling, a former operator of a short term rental, says a number of those hosts are waiting until the last moment of December 1 to register their unit as a form of protest. 

Hartling himself said he converted his property to a medium term rental in order to avoid dealing with the bylaw, and more specifically the surveillance aspect of it. 

He says the unprecedented usage of the third party company Harmari and "proactive enforcement" has gone too far for many hosts, and wasn't done in consultation with community members. 

"Nobody has actually gone out to Kingstonians to say 'do you actually want this?'" Hartling said. 

He added that this bylaw does nothing but suppress individuals in the short term rental market at the benefit of hotels. 

Another delegate at last night's meeting and the owner of multiple properties in the city, Alex Legnini, said he expects Harmari's $18,000 service to be "essentially useless" and could result in a number of false fines.

Harmari spokesperson Allen Atamer however says if the company's data wasn't reliable, they wouldn't continue to be utilized by municipalities throughout North America. 

He added that all tools and technology used by the company are based on publicly available information, thus should not leave hosts feeling violated. 

The fine amounts will be reviewed by city staff and revisited at a future council meeting. 

Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative

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  • Dinah Jansen
    published this page in News 2021-10-07 20:08:06 -0400