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  • Writer's pictureNancy Arsenault

Short Term Home Rental Regulation in BC:  How Some Communities are approaching the Issue

Every now and then you read something that you just want to share 'as is'. I couldn't find a link to this specific article but I received in our TIABC news and they cited the "BC Lodging & Campground Association (BCLCA)

Dogwood Express, September 2017"

--- Thought provoking and informative - enjoy this direct excerpt --

The march to regulate short term vacation rentals such as Airbnb and Homestay has begun with the major centres and tourism hot spots leading the way. Airbnb rentals are kind of like jaywalking; technically illegal, but everyone's doing it and no one's really enforcing the rules. Many people have homes and a spare room so it is easy to take advantage of services such as Airbnb and it is not frowned upon by politicians as these homeowners are the local voters.

However, now that the short term vacation rental pools are getting extremely large; the long term residential rental market has shrunk; and neighbours are being impacted by commercial activity in their neighbourhood, politicians are being motivated to act. Airbnb no longer just serves homeowners wanting to rent out a room for a few nights a year but short term hotel operators have cottoned on to the fact they can run a business with multiple home or apartment rental locations through Airbnb thereby circumnavigating the rules.

So what is really being done to combat the rise of the short term vacation rental? Here is a quick summary of the approach some communities are taking, gleaned via the media.

Tofino-requires vacation rentals to be licensed and has done so for some 10 years with fees up to $375 per annum. Unfortunately, in the past, the rule has been ignored and was only enforced on a complaint basis. Tofino is now stepping up notification, education and enforcement as they have a shortage of long term rentals for employees.

Victoria-is moving to regulate and limit short-term rentals by way of zoning regulations, housing agreements, and working with the B.C. Assessment Authority to ensure properties used for rentals are under the appropriate class. City staff are recommending regulations and city-wide enforcement to target houses, basement suites and garden suites being used for short-term rentals.

Vernon-Airbnb owners need to be licensed as bed and breakfasts to be authorized but the city of Vernon only has a few licensed and is not actively enforcing.

Penticton-has a licensing structure specifically for short-term vacation rentals, which entails a $175 annual licensing fee plus a $200 tourism fee. The city also has a fine of up to $500 for anyone operating a short-term vacation rental without a licence.

Whistler--The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) requires anyone marketing or leasing short-term rentals - such as those listed on sites like Airbnb - to acquire a business licence or face hefty daily fines. However, those offering property in neighbourhoods not zoned for rentals will be deemed illegal and unable to obtain a business licence. Those found contravening the bylaw could face fines of $1,000 per day for infractions.

Richmond-Council settled on a proposed framework which prohibits entire dwellings from being rented out for 30 days or less. Single-family homes can still be rented out short-term but only if the owner is licensed as a bed and breakfast operator with the city (subject to fees and inspections) and also lives full-time on the property. Under the Richmond bylaw, homes with secondary suites or laneway/coach houses cannot be rented out short-term. Bed and breakfasts in the same area must be separated by at least 500 metres to prevent the commercialization of neighbourhoods.Property owners operating short-term rentals must also notify their neighbours and provide them with direct contact information. Bylaw officers will be able to fine violators $1,000 a day per offence up from $250.

Vancouver--is proposing a ban on short-term rentals in secondary homes, which would in effect cut out large, commercial hosts. Homeowners and renters would be allowed to rent out part or all of their principal residence, but rentals of secondary suites or laneway homes would be prohibited.

Operators will be required to get a $49 annual business licence, in addition to a one-time $54 "activation fee." The city will require the hosts to post a valid business licence number on their postings; the bylaw will also stipulate that short-term-rental sites only list rentals with valid business licences. This approach means the city expects the online platforms to take on some of the burden of enforcement.

As BCLCA becomes aware of more approaches throughout BC we will update you through a future article. If you have any comments, regulations to share, or anecdotal stories please contact the Association office.

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The ways in which we do business are changing - rather than fight them, lets understand them and find ways for everyone to be part of the future economy of tourism.

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