The City of Saskatoon is looking at its licensing requirements for bed and breakfasts.
At issue is a policy requiring bed and breakfasts to get discretionary-use approval. The process costs $800, with an administration report saying it takes an average of four months to complete.
Fresh off addressing a meeting of the city’s planning, development and community services committee, Glacier Park Bed and Breakfast operator Bill Judt explained what he went through to set up his business.
“It was a nine-month process, and it involved inspections, renovations to the home and it also involved neighbourhood surveys,” he said.
But Judt wasn’t necessarily complaining about having to clear those hurdles.
“It results in B-and-Bs that are well aware of their responsibilities to various levels of government, including taxation. It also raises awareness of B-and-B owners to the reality that they are promoting the city, they’re ambassadors,” he said.
Faced with the rise of online room rental websites like Airbnb, Judt said the policy isn’t reflecting the current reality of the industry.
“A whole host of short-term accommodation operators are skirting that process. Not only because they can, but because it’s scary and it’s a difficult process to go through,” he said.
The administration report presented to the committee outlined two options. Essentially — either eliminate the discretionary use approval for traditional bed and breakfasts, while requiring both them and online providers to get business licenses, or find a way to get online providers to comply with the discretionary use policy.
Citing the difficulties of enforcement that would come with the second option, the administration recommended that the discretionary use requirement be eliminated.
Judt and his wife, Debbie, said they want a simple set of rules to apply to everyone. They said the last thing they want to see is a witch hunt for unlicensed online operators.
Judt said he was hopeful the city can craft a policy that will highlight the benefits of getting business licenses to people renting out rooms online.
“There’s lots of advantages to going through the licensing process. You become aware of city bylaws, you have recourse in case there are complaints, you avail yourself of inspections. For example, a lot of unlicensed short term accommodation operators are not aware that they are at risk for insurance. They are at risk for all sorts of things if they are unlicensed. If someone injures themselves on the property, or if there’s a concern with health — they can be liable for action on the part of the city or other agencies,” he said.
Committee members instructed administration to report back after consulting with stakeholders on the issue and forwarded the report on to city council as information.