Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Dangers of Unlicensed B&B's

We haven't written a Blog post in quite some time, but in light of what is going on in the B&B industry right now we felt that it was time to try to spread the word. Currently the world is facing a sudden outbreak of private residences listing their homes for rent on sites like Air BnB. Stratford is no exception. Unfortunately many of these newly listed B&B's are not adhering to local licencing requirements. B&B Licensing was implemented in Stratford in 2005 to eliminate dangerous or shoddy accommodations. With this new booking and rental trend it is evident that we as a city are at risk of returning to the problems we rectified in the past. These unlicensed properties are not only breaking city by-laws of licensing and zoning, they are also not meeting parking, fire safety, insurance requirements, and business licensing requirements as set out by the city as well. Travellers wouldn't book to stay in a hotel that didn't meet fire code regulations so why would you stay at a B&B that isn't meeting those same requirements? Understandably like uber taxi's, and other new on-line business trends this is a huge and difficult problem. The city of Paris France is now in the process of taking AirB-B to court as their city has the most unlicensed properties being advertised anywhere in the world. Stratford is in a rather special situation because it has an existing B&B licensing requirement in place, much like the city of San Diego. Last August a judge sided with the city of San Diego and a local resident of that city was fined nearly $25,000 for operating a bed-and-breakfast establishment without the necessary permits. Furthermore there is a common misconception as to who requires a licence in our city. Stratfords city bylaws clearly state “ACCESSORY GUEST ROOM means a habitable room intended for sleeping accommodation, with or without meals, that is provided for a fee and that is clearly incidental, secondary and subordinate to the single detached dwelling within which it is situated.” The bylaws continue by saying “No person shall use a building or operate as an Accessory Guest Room, Bed and Breakfast establishment/or Guest Home unless they hold a valid licence issued by the City of Stratford pursuant to this by-law.” So that means anyone renting out a room in their house for money requires a licence. Should there be an accident, or heaven forbid a fire in one of these unlicensed properties who would be liable. The individual home owners insurance would be declined because the home was being used as a business. AirBnB does cary insurance for properties that list with them, but in the fine print on their site it states that properties listing on the site must comply with local laws and licensing requirements. So once it comes to light that the property is unlicensed in a city that requires licensing their insurance coverage would be defunct as well. Recently the City of Stratford has published adds to remind citizens that there are existing bylaws and licensing requirements in Stratford, and that if they are found operating a B&B or guest house without a licence they are potentially at risk of a fine of $5000 as set out in the city bylaws. SO guests....... Please be wise. Before you book a B&B please ask if it is licensed or at the very least insured. B&B's are a wonderful way to travel, but please be safe.

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