Council postpones decision on short-term rental penalties as hosts delay registration

The Kingston City Council has deferred a motion to introduce flat penalty amounts for short-term rental hosts who are not licensed to do business with the city.

The proposed fines could remove provincial courts from the process, and city staff would recommend $ 250, $ 500 and $ 750 plus court costs for violations of the Short-Term Rental Licensing Statute.

Jenna Morley, the city’s director of Legal Services, said the enactment of flat penalties would follow the lead of other city statutes and simplify the process as a whole.

“What we are simply allowing tonight is an opportunity to resolve these issues out of court by giving people the option to pay a fine,” Morley said.

In June, city staff recommended that short-term rental statute violations be fined through the system of administrative monetary penalties, with fines ranging from roughly $ 100 to $ 200.

The cost to license a short-term rental is $ 180 under statute, and as of last night’s meeting only 44 hosts had registered, or about 40 percent of the short-term listings identified.

Ron Hartling, a former short-term rental operator, says several of those hosts are waiting until the last minute of December 1 to register their unit as a form of protest.

Hartling himself said he converted his property to a medium-term rental to avoid dealing with the ordinance, and more specifically the surveillance aspect of it.

He says the unprecedented use of third-party Harmari and “proactive enforcement” has gone too far for many hosts and was not done in consultation with community members.

“No one has really approached Kingstons saying ‘do you really want this?'” Hartling said.

He added that this ordinance does nothing more than repress people in the short-term rental market for the benefit of hotels.

Another delegate at last night’s meeting and owner of multiple properties in the city, Alex Legnini, said he expects Harmari’s $ 18,000 service to be “essentially useless” and could result in a series of bogus fines.

However, Harmari spokesman Allen Atamer says that if the company’s data were unreliable, North American municipalities would no longer use it.

He added that all the tools and technology used by the company are based on publicly available information, so they should not leave hosts feeling violated.

The fine amounts will be reviewed by city staff and reviewed at a future council meeting.

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