05/21/2015

Online accommodations services, such as AirBnB, may be vanguards of the shared economy. But their unregulated nature poses a risk to municipalities in terms of public safety and legal liability.

The impact of social media and the internet on our economies continues to evolve. Multi-billion dollar enterprises, such as Uber and AirBnB, now operate to provide goods and services in what is referred to as the shared economy. As our economy evolves, regulatory requirements and by-laws need to keep pace.

The Federation of Ontario Bed and Breakfast Accommodation (FOBBA) wants to work with Ontario municipalities to address challenges presented by AirBnB’s unregulated accommodations, such as the lack of proper liability insurance,  safety risks and quality assurance for travellers.

What is AirBnB?
AirBnB provides short-term accommodations ranging from a couch for the night to luxurious condominiums. Its vendors operate outside of local regulatory and bylaw requirements.  In many cases, the transaction between owner and renter is completed on-line and two may never meet. The absence of the owner can lead to a variety of issues including: noise complaints, damage to the premises and on-line fraud. The lack of liability insurance or safety issues may cause litigators to look to municipalities. Some U.S. municipalities have restricted or banned unregulated short-term accommodations given the additional concern about the loss of hotel tax revenues.

FOBBA’s Proposal
FOBBA has developed a set definition of a B&B and requires all of its members to meet a strict and specific set of conditions, including adequate liability insurance, an Ontario Business License, and importantly, owners that are required to live within the premise.  As well, our members are inspected, rated and approved in their compliance with our Quality Assurance Program. This involves a paid inspection from a third-party company following an extensive checklist to ensure that we all meet the same standard. The inspection determines a Star Rating that can be displayed by the owner.

FOBBA would like more of Ontario’s municipalities to adopt its definition of a B&B as part of their by-laws. As well, requiring all B&Bs to be FOBBA members would ensure that B&Bs in your community meet an accepted quality standard and are subject to third-party inspection, at no cost to the municipality.

FOBBA defines a B&B as: “An owner-occupied, private, residential dwelling that is the owner’s principal residence, and in which the owner has control of the environment. It provides temporary accommodation not exceeding 28 consecutive days, and amenities and services auxiliary to guest accommodation, including the preparation and service of breakfast for an all-inclusive fee".

About FOBBA
FOBBA was founded in 1987 and represents some 330 members. We are a group of small businesses focussed on personalized hospitality providing their guests with a variety of local experiences. FOBBA can help municipalities that are considering revisions to by-laws dealing with B&Bs, by sharing our experience or our resources. You can learn more on our website (fobba.com) or on Facebook at Facebook.com/fobbaontario. You can reach us by email at talk2us@fobba.com.

Don Matthews is Volunteer Secretary for the Federation of Ontario Bed & Breakfast Accommodation and owner, with his wife Marion of the Sleepy Hollow Bed & Breakfast in Gananoque.

Disclaimer: The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is unable to provide any warranty regarding the accuracy or completeness of third-party submissions. Distribution of these items does not imply an endorsement of the views, information or services mentioned.