B.C.’s new short-term rental regulation comes into effect

B.C.'s new short-term rental regulation comes into effect
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B.C.’s new rules on short-term rentals, such as Airbnb and VRBO, came into effect on May 1, limiting where people can book short-term accommodations with a goal of freeing up housing in the province.

The new short-term rental ban is in effect for 60 communities in B.C., including more than 20 on Vancouver Island.

The rules automatically came into effect for any community with a population of at least 10,000 people, or that are “very close to one or more larger communities where the principal residence requirement applies.”

Communities under 10,000 people can also opt into the program, and 10 Island communities have, including Tofino and many electoral areas in the Cowichan Valley.

The rules for those communities that opted into the regulations will come into effect on Nov. 1, 2024.

‘Principal residence’ regulation and fines

Under B.C.’s new short-term rental rules, people can only host short-term accommodations at their principal residence, an attached secondary suite, or an accessory dwelling – in what’s called the principal residence requirement.

For example, this could be a room in someone’s home, a basement suite, or a garden home on their property.

On Tuesday, B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the changes were announced in October in 2023 and should have given short-term rental owners enough time to adjust.

“We need to prioritize housing for people in our communities,” Kahlon told CHEK News. “That’s what we’ve been clear about since we introduced legislation, and we expect that to kick in tomorrow.”

Owners who continue to operate their short-term rental in contravention of the ban could face steep fines, with maximum fines for offenses reaching $50,000 – and daily infractions costing up to $3,000.

The province says guests will not be on the hook for fines, which wall fall only on short-term rental operators. However, guests should always check to see if their host has a valid business licence and is complying with all provincial rules and local bylaws.

To monitor compliance, the province says short-term rental hosts will be required to display a valid business licence on their listings. Municipalities are expected to report any invalid business licenses to the province, and they can also request that platforms like AirBNB remove listings that don’t display a valid licence.

‘Saying goodbye’

On Tuesday, the day before the new restrictions came into place, several short-term rental business owners told CHEK News they were shutting down and laying off staff.

Angela Mason, co-owner of Air Lobby, a virtual front desk for many Airbnb’s in downtown Victoria, said business had been winding down in the months leading up to the rule changes.

“May 1, that means the closing of calendars,” she Tuesday. “That means the shutdown of all the properties that we’ve been able to grow and love over the past four years. That means a business winding down. That means us saying goodbye to staff that have been here.”

RELATED: Victoria short-term rental owner files petition against B.C., city

Meanwhile, Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto said she hopes the new rules impact will impact the housing stock, but whether that actually occurs “remains to be seen.”

“There are quite a few people who’ve said, anecdotally, that they’ve either sold or decided to become landlords and rent. If that’s the case, that’s great,” she said Tuesday.

More information about B.C.’s new short-term rental rules can be found on the provincial government website.

A list of Vancouver Island communities where the rules came into effect on May 1 can be found below, while the province-wide list can be found on the provincial government website.

With files from CHEK’s Mary Griffin

  • Campbell River
  • Central Saanich
  • Colwood
  • Comox
  • Cranbrook
  • Cumberland
  • Duncan
  • Esquimalt
  • Highlands
  • Langford
  • Metchosin
  • Nanaimo
  • North Cowichan
  • North Saanich
  • Oak Bay
  • Parksville
  • Port Alberni
  • Qualicum Beach
  • Saanich
  • Sidney
  • Sooke
  • Victoria
  • View Royal
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