A Vancouver Island company says it’s unfairly being lumped in with AirBnB operators under new provincial legislation.
Premiere Suites Victoria offers stays around the capital region to primarily working professionals coming to Victoria on short-term contracts, with a mandatory minimum stay of 31 days.
“We’re not vacation rentals, that’s not our clientele. We’re business to business,” said Rachelle Keeley, owner of Premiere Suites Victoria. “The biggest problem we have with the new regulations is they don’t recognize our difference.”
Premiere Suites Victoria says it serves a niche that isn’t short-term. On average, their stays are around 66 days. Among their clients are those undergoing home renovations/restorations, or those coming to Victoria for short-term contracts with the military or industries like film and health-care.
“We get a lot of cancer patients receiving treatment here. Not only do we get patients, we have travelling nurses,” said Keeley. “When the hospitals are short-staffed, they bring in people who come stay with us. We also have a doctors training program.”
But regardless of the company’s minimum stay requirement, under B.C.’s new AirBnB regulations, the company is considered a short-term rental operator.
“What we’re asking for is number one an exemption, but also a classification,” said Keeley.
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What is “short term?”
Right now, the definition of what a “short-term rental” is depends on who you ask.
After the new regulations were passed, a short-term rental is now defined as anything 90 days or less in B.C. According to Keeley, insurance companies consider anything less than a year short-term.
The definitions also vary from municipality to municipality. For instance, the City of Victoria defines short-term rentals as anything less than 30 days.
“The 90 days is quite extraordinary, if you look at other places, New York, Toronto, no one has 90 days, it’s all 30 days,” said Karin Kirkpatrick, the housing opposition with BC United. “Ninety days is quite extreme.”
But the Ministry of Housing is holding firm.
“Whether a home is rented a few days at a time or for a few months at a time, it still takes long-term rental accommodation off the market,” a spokesperson told CHEK News in a statement.
Exemptions so far unheard, coming “soon”
“It’s pretty desperate for a lot of people and they’re looking at different solutions,” said Bruce Hallsor, a Victoria-based real estate lawyer.
Hallsor says so far, the new regulations sorely lack a process where upset homeowners can be heard.
“When the agricultural land reserve first came in, there was a long process where people could apply for relief or exemptions, this should not be any different,” said Hallsor.
The province tells CHEK News exemptions are coming “soon.”
“This may include accommodations such as hotels and motels, timeshare properties, home exchanges, lodges, and student accommodations,” the ministry said.
It’s little comfort for Premiere Suites Victoria and the clients they serve.
“The lower-end motels were bought up for the homeless, so they don’t have that option anymore. Potentially they won’t have us anymore. The hotels are full. So what are they supposed to do, not come to Victoria anymore?” said Keeley.
A legal loophole, for now
In the meantime, real estate lawyers say affected homeowners are trying to find creative solutions, like incorporating as a hotel.
“There’s nothing in provincial hotel legislation that requires a single hotel to be in one building,” said Hallsor.
Hotels do face a higher taxation rate. It’s something Keeley believes her clients wouldn’t be able to pay.
“I think it would make it unaffordable for some businesses we do direct businesses with,” said Keeley.
There’s also concern that while incorporating as a hotel may be a legal loophole right now, there’s little security it won’t be closed.
“We also don’t know how the province will react to the first person who figures out how to do this and implement this. The province has been very clear to shut down very legal things, so what’s legal now might not be legal next year,” said Hallsor.