The growing popularity of short-term rental services, such as Airbnb and VRBO, has created new opportunities and challenges for Ottawa and its residents. The City has implemented new rules to manage this emerging industry.
Short-term rental platforms, property managers and hosts have until April 1, 2022 to get a permit .
Who can offer short-term rentals?
Under the new rules:
- Homeowners can offer short-term rentals in their own home (principal residence)
- Renters can offer short-term rentals in the rental unit that is their principal residence, if their landlord permits
- Condominium and co-operative owners can offer short-term rentals in their principal residence, unless prohibited by the condominium corporation or housing co-operative
- Rural homeowners and cottage owners can offer “cottage rentals” with a separate permit
Where are short-term rentals allowed?
Under the by-law, short-term rentals will be allowed:
- In a principal residence in the urban area, except where bed and breakfast use is prohibited by the Zoning By-law
- In a principal residence in rural villages
- In a cottage or vacation home, secondary suite, or coach house in rural areas other than villages
- In certain dwellings that have legally established as hotels prior to the in-force date of the by-law (conditions apply)
What are the rules for short-term rental hosts?
In order to offer short-term rentals, hosts:
- Need a City-issued host permit for their principal residence, at a cost of $110 for two years
- Need a separate cottage rental permit, at a cost of $110 for two years, to rent one cottage or home in the rural area
- Are only able to list (market or book) a short-term rental through registered short-term rental platforms
- Must include the City-issued host permit number and the maximum number of overnight guests, as noted on the host permit, on all listings
- Must provide guests with contact information and information about noise, parking, smoking and vaping regulations, as well as fire safety, and emergency services
How will the City address “party houses” and other nuisance issues?
Under the Short-Term Rental By-law, short-term rental hosts (or their property managers) must respond to nuisances occurring during the rental period if requested by By-law and Regulatory Services. Hosts must communicate applicable rules for noise, garbage, smoking and vaping, onsite parking, as well as maximum overnight guest and occupancy limits to their guests in order to help prevent nuisance and illegal behaviour during the rental period.
All by-laws will continue to be enforced during the short-term rental period, including those regulating noise, parking, and solid waste. In addition to any enforcement actions, By-law and Regulatory Services will be able to:
- Issue charges against hosts for any violations of the by-law, with possible fines ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $100,000
- Refuse host permits based on enforcement history or other circumstances relating to public health and safety, or in the case of unpaid fees or fines
- Suspend or revoke host permits for by-law violations
How will the Short-Term Rental By-law protect housing supply?
In the residential zones within the urban area of the City, you can only offer short-term rentals in your own home. Short-term rentals in “investment properties”, where the host does not live there, are prohibited under the by-law.
Condominiums, housing co-operatives, and rental housing providers will be able to prohibit short-term rentals in their buildings according to their own governance rules, and short-term rentals will be prohibited in all community housing.
In zones where an “investment property” offering short-term rentals has been legally established as a “hotel” prior to the by-law taking effect, the property owner will be required to obtain a host permit and follow the rules within the by-law.
When do the new rules take effect?
Enforcement of the new rules will take effect April 1, 2022.
Short-term rental platforms, property managers and hosts can apply for permit at https://ottawa.ca/en/business/permits-and-licenses/short-term-rentals.
Landlords, condominium boards and housing co-op boards can also apply to register prohibitions against short-term rentals in their buildings. For more information, please visit https://ottawa.ca/en/business/permits-and-licenses/short-term-rentals
The emergence of short-term rentals in private dwellings through online platforms such as Airbnb and Expedia have changed the landscape of the hospitality industry. In doing so, this new industry has created both opportunities and challenges for residents of Ottawa.
For some residents, the financial opportunities created through online short-term rentals have increased their housing security and enhanced their quality of life. Some communities have also benefited through increased tourism outside of the traditional tourist districts in the City.
Some communities have also benefited through increased tourism outside of the traditional tourist districts in the City.
However, the rapid growth of short-term rentals has also brought new problems:
- neighbourhood disruption from “party houses”
- units devoted full time to short-term rentals remove housing supply and contribute to higher long-term rents and housing prices
- short-term rentals cause problems for landlords and condominium boards who do not want them in their buildings and
- safety concerns related to overcrowding
Through the Rental Accommodations Study, the City has consider options to manage these issues.
The first staff report and recommendations were presented at a special meeting of the Community and Protective Services Committee on November 15, 2019 and approved at City Council on November 27th, 2019 with minor amendments. This report provided City staff with a framework for the development of the short-term rental regulations that were considered by the special joint meeting of Community and Protective Services Committee and Planning Committee on April 22, 2021 and then subsequently approved by City Council on April 28, 2021 with minor amendments. By-law No. 2021-104, the Short-term Rental By-law, was enacted by Council on May 12, 2021.
Rental housing conditions
Emergency and Protective Services is conducting a review of regulations governing private sector rental properties to address public health and safety, consumer protection, community nuisances and other areas of municipal concern.
This review includes a review of policy options to address housing conditions, student housing, rooming houses and shared accommodations.
The first staff report and recommendations were presented at a Special Meeting of the Community and Protective Services Committee on November 15, 2019 and approved at City Council on November 27, 2019.
Following Council’s decisions on the recommended regulatory frameworks, staff developed the required by-laws, policies and procedures, as directed. The second staff report stemming from the Rental Accommodations Study focused on measures to improve rental housing quality (long-term housing), and was presented to and approved by the Community and Protective Services Committee on August 20, 2020. Subsequently, the report and recommended draft by-laws were approved at City Council on August 26, 2020.
The two by-laws that were enacted in August 2020 to improve rental housing quality were the Rental Housing Property Management By-law being By-law No. 2020-255 and By-law No. 2020-256, being an amendment to the Property Standards By-law No. 2013-416. The new Rental Housing Property Management By-law comes into force on August 31, 2021.
Rental housing conditions
Approximately 1/3 of Ottawa’s residents live in rental housing.
For many, rental housing provides a flexible and affordable alternative to home ownership. For some, rental housing brings unwelcome challenges based on the quality, availability and affordability of rental units that meet their needs.
While the Province of Ontario regulates most aspects of the relationship between tenants and landlords, the City of Ottawa has enacted a number of by-laws which directly or indirectly regulate rental housing. These include:
- The Building By-law (2014-220) regulates the administration and enforcement of the Ontario Building Code Act, 1992 respecting the construction, renovation or any change of use of buildings and designated structures.
- The Heat By-law (2010-210) regulates the maintenance of adequate heat in rented dwelling accommodations.
- The Licensing By-law (2002-189), Schedule 26 licenses and regulates rooming houses.
- The Property Maintenance By-law (2005-208) regulates the clearing and cleaning of refuse, debris or snow and ice from all properties.
- The Property Standards By-law (2013-416) prescribes standards under which properties are to be maintained. This by-law regulates residential properties, non-residential properties, vacant buildings, vacant lands, open space land, and Heritage Properties.
Through the Rental Accommodations Study, the City considered whether updates to these by-laws or new by-laws are required to effectively manage public health and safety, consumer protection and community nuisances related to rental accommodations.
Specifically, the City has considered how proposed changes in regulation influence three key factors:
- Are the current property standards appropriate for rental housing?
- How can the City work to ensure these standards are met more consistently?
- Can regulatory changes encourage more investment in private residential rental properties, or protect existing housing?
- Do existing or proposed regulations discourage investment in rental housing or encourage loss of existing housing?
- How are Short-Term Rentals affecting the availability of private market residential rental units?
- How are vacant properties affecting the availability of private market residential rental units?
- How would regulatory changes impact housing costs?
- How is gentrification impacting rental costs and what role should the municipality play in managing resulting issues like “renovictions”?
As a result of the staff report and recommendations, Council has approved the following new measures:
- A $500 re-inspection fee for non-compliant properties was approved by Council in December 2019 and implemented in February 2020.
- The new Rental Housing Property Management By-law will establish basic standards for the operation of rental housing units. Staff have begun development of supporting materials for landlords and tenants in preparation for implementation in August 2021.
- Amendments to the current Property Standards By-law (2013-416), including new pest and vermin control regulations with standards and obligations for both landlords and tenants, will be also be implemented in August 2021.
- Two additional by-law enforcement officers have been hired to undertake focused enforcement of property standards and property maintenance matters at problem addresses.
- Improved tracking mechanisms are being introduced to better monitor rental housing quality.
- A new online searchable database is being developed to display the history of property standards and maintenance violations at municipal addresses.
Studies and reports
Review background studies used to inform public policy development related to key rental housing issues.
The issues facing rental housing are complex and often interrelated.
This is why the City has taken a holistic approach to its examination of rental accommodation regulations, supported by extensive research on Ottawa’s rental market.
On this page you will find key reports either commissioned or conducted by the City in support of this study.
Literature Review and Multi-jurisdictional Environmental Scan (PDF) (Prism Economics and Analysis)
This report provides an overview of leading academic and policy papers on rental housing issues from around the globe, with specific analysis of real-world application in multiple Canadian and American jurisdictions. This report has helped to identify promising approaches to regulation that will be considered as possible strategies to address local issues.
Rental Market Analysis (Prism Economics and Analysis)
This study provides comprehensive data about the local private rental market, including the size and condition of housing inventory, rental rates and changes, vacancy rates and housing demand. This data has been analyzed at the census tract level to provide a detailed understanding of rental conditions on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis.
The study also provides important data about short-term rental activity in Ottawa and how it is influencing the availability and affordability of private market rental housing.
Note: Selected data from the Rental Market Analysis is also available on Open Data.
Rental Housing Conditions – Discussion Paper (PDF) (Maclaren Municipal Consulting)
This paper outlines current issues related to rental housing – the need for housing, the housing available, and the conditions experienced by tenants and landlords.
Student Housing - Discussion Paper (PDF) (Maclaren Municipal Consulting)
This paper outlines current issues related to student housing – the need for housing, the housing available, and the conflicts between some students and their neighbours.
Short-Term Rentals - Discussion Paper (PDF) (Maclaren Municipal Consulting)
This paper outlines the growth of short-term rentals within residential properties, the issues that have emerged with the hotel industry, with neighbours, and opportunities that have developed for travellers and for housing owners.
Rental Housing Policy Options Paper (PDF) (Maclaren Municipal Consulting) – August 2019
This paper presents a series of policy options based on Maclaren’s research and policy analysis as well as community input from the consultations on Rental Housing Conditions and Student Housing and Shared Accommodations.
Short-Term Rental Options Paper (PDF) (Maclaren Municipal Consulting) – August 2019
This paper presents a series of policy options based on Maclaren’s research and policy analysis as well as community input from the consultations on Short-Term Rentals (like Airbnb and VRBO) and identifies advantages and disadvantages of each policy option.
Property Standards in Rental Housing (City of Ottawa)
This report provides a ten-year history of service requests associated with private market rental units. This data provides greater understanding of the scope and nature of issues facing tenants and landlords.
This report served to identify gaps in regulation and prioritize issues for policy development. It is also being used by By-law and Regulatory Services to assess service delivery, enforcement protocols and resource allocation.
Regulation of Long-Term Rental Accommodations – Final Report (Maclaren Municipal Consulting) - Sept 2019
This report includes Maclaren Municipal Consulting’s recommendations for the regulation of rental housing in Ottawa. City staff considered these recommendations and supporting arguments in the development of the recommendations and report to Community and Protective Services Committee and Council.
Regulation of Short-Term Rental Accommodations – Final Report (Maclaren Municipal Consulting) - Sept 2019
This report includes Maclaren Municipal Consulting’s recommendations for the regulation of short-term rental accommodations. City staff considered these recommendations and supporting arguments in the development of the recommendations and report to Community and Protective Services Committee and Council.
Over the past year, the City has been meeting with local advocacy organizations, service providers and industry associations.
Three public consultation periods were also included in this study.
The first round of consultations concluded on June 30, 2019. This initial consultation sought to identify community concerns related to rental housing conditions, short-term rentals, and student housing and shared accommodations. Twelve public workshops were held, as well as a series of meetings with stakeholder groups. Residents were also invited to complete an online survey and comment form.
The second round of consultations concluded on September 4, 2019. This consultation asked residents to consider policy options to address the community concerns identified in Consultation 1. Two policy options papers are available, for Rental Housing Conditions and Short-Term Rentals.
The third and final round of Consultations for the Rental Accommodations Study occurred between October 4 and October 18, 2019, including an online survey and two public meetings.
Members of the public were invited to consider the Studies and Reports released to date and asked to express their views on key findings by staff. This consultation informed the staff recommendations to Council.
About the Rental Accommodations Study
The Rental Accommodations Study was approved by City Council as a component of the 2018 budget. The need for this study arose from several emerging trends, including:
- concerns expressed by residents and community organizations about the quality and safety of private sector rental housing and how the City addresses these issues
- growth of requests for service regarding property standards, which have increased 34% over the last 3 years and nearly tripled since the new City of Ottawa formed in 2001 (from 5,045 to 13,543)
- continued growth of post-secondary institutions and the ability of the City to meet unique housing needs of students
- the conversion of single unit residential properties into unlicensed rooming houses and other forms of shared accommodations
- the emergence of short-term accommodation rentals (using on-line platforms such as Airbnb or Expedia) and possible impacts for private market housing availability and affordability, as well as health and safety, community nuisance, property standards and maintenance, and consumer protection considerations
- the need to review regulations currently in place for hotels, motels and traditional bed and breakfasts
Beginning in late 2018, City staff have been conducting research and working with external consultants to produce required background studies and reports.
A working group was established with key staff from six City departments. This working group helps to ensure that the study is well coordinated with other City initiatives related to rental housing and service delivery.
In early 2019, the City engaged Maclaren Municipal Consulting to conduct an independent assessment of Ottawa’s regulations related to private sector rental housing. This review will help identify potential problems and recommend possible solutions.
The aim of this study is to create a regulatory framework that best serves the needs of residents and the local economy.
In all cases, proposed regulations must be enforceable, effective and sustainable:
Enforceable: The City must be able prove a violation exists within the existing powers of enforcement staff.
Effective: Rules must serve a purpose and help manage or resolve specific issues.
Sustainable: The cost of administration and enforcement must be recoverable through fees and may not place undue burden on residents or the economy.
Related City initiatives
The Rental Accommodations Study is focused on regulations for private market rental housing and short-term accommodation providers.
However, regulation can’t resolve every challenge with rental housing. Planning and social services are both crucial elements of addressing housing challenges. The City currently has a number of initiatives underway, including:
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development (PIED)
R4 Zoning Review Phase 1 (Bunkhouses) Monitoring
Changes to zoning in July 2018 closed loopholes that were producing de facto unlicensed rooming houses ("bunkhouses") in inappropriate locations. PIEDD will be delivering a one-year monitoring report on the effect of these changes in Q2 2019.
Ottawa's R4 family of residential zones is intended to allow the construction of low-rise apartment dwellings and offers the greatest opportunities for building new and affordable urban rental housing. However, recent analysis of the R4 zoning regulations by PIEDD planners reveals flaws that have stifled such development, contributing to a shortage of rentable units near downtown.
The R4 Zoning Review (also known as the Missing Middle review) will "de-bug" the R4 zoning to remove undue obstacles to building low-rise apartments. It is estimated that the R4 review will enable thousands of new units throughout the inner urban area over the coming decades. Public consultations on the Missing Middle Review will begin in Q3 2019 and a zoning amendment will come to Planning Committee in Q1 2020.
Official Plan Review and Housing Policies
A review of the Official Plan is underway and scheduled for completion in 2021. The review includes a focused look at land use policies affecting the supply of housing city-wide. A series of Discussion Papers, including one specifically on housing, may be found on the City of Ottawa's New Official Plan page. The Official Plan team is seeking comments on these papers by May 31.
Community and Social Services
The Housing Services Branch of Community and Social Services offers a range of services to assist eligible residents with their housing needs. Housing Services also develops and administers the City's 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.
This update of this plan is scheduled to begin later this year.