Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit May 17, 2018 - 10:30 am

As Iqaluit’s sharing economy grows, so does need for business licences

"It's always been the rule"

The City of Iqaluit is drafting a new application process for business licences, which should go to city council before the end of the year. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
The City of Iqaluit is drafting a new application process for business licences, which should go to city council before the end of the year. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
A growing number of Iqaluit homeowners are renting out rooms through Airbnb. But the city says hosts require a licence to operate any kind of home-based accommodation.
A growing number of Iqaluit homeowners are renting out rooms through Airbnb. But the city says hosts require a licence to operate any kind of home-based accommodation.

Planning to visit Iqaluit this summer?

Options for places to stay have thinned considerably in the city this year with the closure of Hotel Arctic.

But that gap has encouraged Nunavut’s sharing economy. Over the last year, the number of Iqaluit homes advertising on—the popular website that advertises short-term lodging—has risen to about 20.

Many other Iqaluit homeowners have been renting rooms from their homes for years, through other websites or by word-of-mouth.

For half the price of a hotel room, visitors can stay in Joelle Lavallée’s Apex bed and breakfast, which offers six colourful bedrooms and a view overlooking the bay.

Lavallée has rented out the rooms for the last decade, but only just recently started advertising through Airbnb, to do better outreach and “test out the market,” she said.

With the increase in new spaces opening up on the popular site, the City of Iqaluit is reminding hosts that they are operating a business, and that doing so requires a licence.

“It’s always been the rule,” said Gabrielle Morrill, economic development officer at the City of Iqaluit

“If you have a product or service and you’re selling it, you’re running a business. How you advertise is up to you.”

Morrill said that getting a licence ensures that the business is operated safely; it also gives municipal officials insight into what the city’s needs are so it can tailor its own policies and funding accordingly.

Currently, there are about 400 licensed businesses throughout the city; 150 of them are home-based, but fewer than a dozen of those provide accommodation.

To obtain a licence, business owners have to fill out an application through the city. Typically, the process includes a health and fire inspection of the premises, plus a $250 annual fee.

But when the city’s economic development committee hosted consultations with business owners last year, it heard a number of suggestions on how to simplify the application process and make it more equitable.

Morrill said business owners recommended a sliding fee scale depending on a business’s size or its months of operation, making the application available online and issuing more penalties for non-compliance.

Currently the fine for operating a business without a licence is $250, the same as the cost of purchasing one.

Morrill said the city is drafting a new process, which should go to city council before the end of the year.

“The process is easy enough and the city was pretty good about it,” said Lavallée, who has a licence to run her bed and breakfast.

“This year, I found the city was trying to speed up the process.”

Lavallée said having the licence gives her the peace of mind that her home is rental-ready.

But Iqaluit residents who offer accommodation in their homes also say the city could do more to support and promote their businesses.

Given the shortage of accommodation in recent months, Lavallée said the city could produce a directory of registered hosts in town to put on its website, or make available at a welcome kiosk at the Iqaluit airport.

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(13) Comments:

#1. Posted by Stop Calling it Sharing on May 17, 2018

I’m not saying it’s bad, quite to the contrary. I’m also not saying it shouldn’t be regulated.


#2. Posted by Facebook on May 17, 2018

Iqaluit sell swap vendors be weary you need a business license. Why? According to Gabriel Morrill “ if you have a product or service and your selling it, your running a business. How you advertise is up to you”.....

#3. Posted by Money money on May 17, 2018

It’s just a cash grab. What is the purpose of having some licence their mitten-knitting or here-and-there odd jobs business? Will I have to pay a pay-roll tax too? A very small side business should not have to buy a licence. It is pointless.

#4. Posted by Jeff on May 17, 2018

Tend to agree with all of the above. Just a cash grab by city. Once registered then wscc, cra, etc be after you cause listed as a business owner.

#5. Posted by Don Corleone on May 17, 2018

Don t forget to give a peice of your pie to the (government) mafia

#6. Posted by Foxtrot on May 17, 2018

Okay just putting this out there I am a business owner and I have airbnbs down south. I need to have a business license for each of those. So here’s facts…

If I charge $150 a night (60% of what hotels charge) in 70 nights I earn $10,400 before extra charges, that’s when I have to declare it on taxes. If I match the hotels with $240/night for 70 days I get $16,800 now as long as I stay under 30k my tax rebate will be larger than the cost of a license.

Your avg mitten-litter gets a license free of charge and grants from the government, and I kind of doubt they can make cash as easily as an airbnb.

So money,Jeff and the well named scoreline you guys just sound like money grubbing people who are profiting of an unlicensed business where you might need to put in some effort like a here-and-there odd jobs business.

#7. Posted by Paul Murphy on May 18, 2018

So does this mean all those good folk who provide home boarding services for the overflow of medical patients who can’t be accommodated at the boarding home, now require a business license?
And Mr Morrill How does getting a licence ensure that the business is operated safely? How many businesses has the hamlet inspected for safety issues?  Never in the 15 years I have operated a business here.
Methinks Mr Morill would be better suited behind the wheel of a grader grading our roads if he is so gungho about the safety of our residents.

#8. Posted by Foxtrot on May 18, 2018

@Paul Murphy
Have you been on Apex road? Everytime the grader goes over that road the “waves” in the road get worse. Not sure if grading the road is improving safety or testing suspension systems. Has no one considered using a roller to repack the badly made road.

That is a good question on boarding services I wonder if you could be considered essential health services if they provide a need that the government is lacking. If you run it as non-profit it could be a free license.

As for how a license = saftey. My business gets regular checks by inspectors depending on what they do or how they operate. I would think it would be the same here. I wouldn’t want to eat at a restaurant that hasn’t passed a food inspection, or got to a doctor without a medical license.

#9. Posted by Clueless in Iqaluit on May 18, 2018

#7 Mr. Morill is a Ms.

Pay attention.

#10. Posted by Benoit Hudson on May 18, 2018

For WSCC, if you own the business and operate it yourself, it’s optional. But if you have employees, you need to cover them.

If you paid yourself or your employees a salary (probably not, for airbnb) you’d need to sign up for income tax, EI, and CPP withholding with both the CRA and the GN.

CRA cares about essentially all income, no matter how you made it. There’s some exceptions that aim to allow things like rummage sales or sell/swap; basically if you aren’t making much money off those, it’s OK. But if you’re making thousands of dollars a year, you should almost certainly be declaring it.

If you make over something like $30k in sales (I forget exactly), you need to register with GST. Even long before then you probably want to register anyway under the “simplified” method to get a GST rebate.

#11. Posted by Pay your Dues on May 21, 2018

Wow, a business needs a business licence, imagine…

Air bNb people have their own houses, they can afford a licence.

#12. Posted by Paul Murphy on May 21, 2018

Gosh I wonder if baby sitters need a license??  Kenny can you check that out?

#13. Posted by Paid on May 25, 2018

#11 having your own house doesn’t mean you are made of money, its more expensive to own your own home, mortgage, fuel, electricity, water and sewage, property tax, land lease, insurance and maintenance.

This is just another money grab by the city. What the city does with the money thats another story.

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