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Regulations that took effect Feb. 1 require Calgary property owners who provide short-term rental accommodation to obtain a business licence and follow new rules.

The changes to the City of Calgary’s Business Licence Bylaw cover owners using popular host platforms like Airbnb or VRBO, as well as any other method of renting out space in a residential dwelling for 30 days or less.

“The big driver for us was safety,” said Cody Weiss, City of Calgary business strategist and spokesperson for the short-term rental project. “We looked at other municipalities, at certain things they may have adopted and tried or are exploring, and then looked at a Calgary-based solution for us.”

Weiss says people who currently rent out space on a short-term basis can find all the information they need at calgary.ca/shorttermrentals. There they will find a link to an online application portal, where they can apply and receive a digital licence within a few days.

Property owners who rent out four rooms or fewer need a Tier 1 licence at a cost of $100, while anyone renting out five or more units requires a Tier 2 licence, which costs $172 plus a $104 fire inspection.

“We realize that people are doing this to subsidize the way they live, to help pay their mortgages, those things. We didn’t want to impede that.” – Cody Weiss, City of Calgary

Weiss says the city expects about 90 per cent of owners will get a Tier 1 licence, which was priced to make it affordable even for those who only rent out their space now and then.

“We realize that people are doing this to subsidize the way they live, to help pay their mortgages, those things,” he said. “We didn’t want to impede that.”

The new bylaw also spells out several requirements for compliant rentals, such as a window in each sleeping room in houses, a maximum of two adults per room, emergency contact information posted in the rental space, keeping of guest records, and including the business licence number in advertisements for the property. Violations are subject to a fine of up to $1,000 per item.

So-called overlapping bookings – situations where two separate groups or individuals book into different rooms in a single property during the same time period – are also forbidden under the new rules.

Weiss says this was included for guest safety and to allow a specific renter to be identified if a problem arises during a booking, such as excessive noise that affects neighbouring homes.

He says about 500 property owners have already obtained short-term rental licences and the City’s focus is currently on getting more people informed and licensed.

“This is all so new, so we’re really seeking that education component,” he said.