Province turning a blind eye to private accommodation rentals

Members of the Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association (MLOA) will be participating in a one-day strike on Saturday, July 29, 2017, by refusing to sell items such as angling licenses and park passes on behalf of the province, to protest the growing regulatory disparities between licensed and unlicensed accommodation providers.

“Private accommodations rented through websites like Airbnb are a growing part of the tourism landscape, and they are in direct competition with legitimate, licensed businesses,” said Paul Turenne, executive director, MLOA. “This is about fairness, maintaining high standards and ensuring that licensed businesses are able to remain competitive.”

Registered accommodation providers take on considerable effort and costs to comply with provincial and municipal regulations, many of which can be onerous and even unnecessary. These businesses also collect and remit taxes, accounting for a multi-million-dollar contribution to Manitoba’s official economy every year.

Private accommodation rentals are not held to the same regulatory compliance standards, tax collection and remission rules, or requirements for provincial permits and associated fees.

“You can’t ignore an entire portion of the accommodations sector then burden another with over-regulation. Either license everyone or license no one,” Turenne said. “We are not against private rentals, but if you’re going to run your cottage or condo as a business, then it should be treated like a business.”

Many jurisdictions have taken steps to level the playing field by requiring guests to pay lodging taxes or property owners who rent out units as a full-time business to register as such. For example, in Quebec, owners who frequently rent out their properties are required to obtain the same provincial certification as hotel and bed-and-breakfast operators, and therefore charge travelers lodging taxes of up to 3.5 per cent.

“The onus is on the government to set some clear standards and regulations to better manage this sector, or face the possibility of potentially wiping out licensed accommodations and with it a reliable source of revenue,” Turenne said. “We are confident that some middle ground can be achieved in which both private and licensed businesses can successfully operate.”