Ontario supports sharing economy with new pilot project with Airbnb

The Ontario government has launched a pilot project that they say demonstrates their commitment to the sharing economy. A partnership with peer-to-peer home-rental service Airbnb will protect consumers and bolster the economy while adhering to provincial regulations, said the province.

The project, announced February 19, will raise awareness on homeowners’ and consumers’ rights and responsibilities when offering or booking accommodation through Airbnb. This includes information on:

  • How to follow tax laws, like reporting rental income
  • Consumer protection rights, such as cancellation or refund policies
  • Accessibility requirements, including regulations to allow service animals on rental property
  • Other regulatory and safety obligations, including the presence of smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors

Airbnb will educate hosts through an email during tax season to remind them of their financial obligations. A website created by both the province and Airbnb will detail Ontario-specific regulations for renters and hosts.

With 11,000 active listings across the province, Ontario is not quite the most popular Airbnb destination — that goes to Paris which boasts more than 40,000 active listings — but it has made an impact on the local economy. In one month, the typical host makes about $280 per month and in 2015, more than 375,000 people stayed at an Airbnb location somewhere in the province.

It may be slower going in Canada at the moment, but Ontario says it recognizes the potential. In October, it created a Sharing Economy Advisory Committee to oversee the government’s approach to this emerging sector and harness the opportunities it presents. Research from PwC says global revenues from five of the key sharing economy sectors (accommodation, transportation, finance, services and labour, and music/video streaming) are projected to grow to USD $335 billion by 2025 from USD $15 billion today.

“The sharing economy has significant potential to create jobs and drive growth, productivity and innovation. Research shows the benefits of the sharing economy include cost savings and greater choice for consumers as well as increased access to capital for small startups. Ontario is the first province in Canada to partner with Airbnb to ensure consumers and hosts know their legal rights and responsibilities,” said a statement from the government.

The statement made no mention of regulating other new services, such as Uber.

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