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BC announces new fines, rules for short-term rental platforms

BC’s new short-term rental (STR) regulations go into effect in less than two weeks but the province has announced new rules for hosts like Airbnb or VRBO.

On Thursday, the province said the new rules are meant to “guide” hosts, platforms and guests.

The new rules announced will require STR platforms to share data with the province and will give local government the ability to request that a platform remove listings that don’t display a valid business licence.

An enforcement unit was hinted at when the legislation was introduced in October 2023.

<who> Photo Credit: 123rf

More details show that the Provincial Short-Term Rental Compliance Enforcement Unit will be able to conduct investigations into alleged non-compliance, including issuing penalties from $500 to $5,000 a day per infraction and up to $10,000 per day for corporations.

Speaking at the announcement, Premier David Eby said the goal of the new rules is to free up the loss of “thousands of long-term rental homes in the midst of a housing crisis.”

“That’s why our government has created balanced new rules to crack down on speculators who are effectively operating mini hotels, while also ensuring homeowners can still rent out spaces in their principal residence,” Ebay said in the news release.

“As we’ve already seen, these new rules are turning (STRs) back into homes for people who live and work in our communities.”

Provincial data from March 2024 shows that more than 19,000 entire homes in BC are being listed as STR.

The news release points to data from a McGill University professor, released in 2023, which shows that the top 10% of hosts earn nearly half of all STR revenue.

AirBnB responds to the latest announcements

In a statement issued after the announcement, AirBnB pointed to the economic benefits of STRs.

The company said AirBnB generated more than $2.5 billion in economic impact across BC in 2023 and supported more than 25,000 jobs.

According to the company, a newly-released “economic analysis” found that for every $100 spent on an AirBnb stay, guests spent another $229 on local businesses, restaurants, attractions, shops, and more.

The statement said that the BC government is putting at risk “billions in tourism spending.”

“BC’s new short-term rental law is going to significantly impact the province’s tourism sector, just as peak tourism season arrives – taking extra income away from residents, limiting accommodation options for guests, and potentially putting at risk billions in tourism spending and economic impact,” said Nathan Rotman, Policy Lead, Canada, at Airbnb.

“At a time when BC is facing record deficits and economic growth is slowing, these new rules hurt resident hosts, tourists, communities and the economy as a whole.”

<who> Photo Credit: The Cove Lakeside Resort </who> The City of West Kelowna was granted a principal residency exemption for purpose-built tourism and resort developments, like the Cove Lakeside Resort.

Several BC municipalities have chosen to opt into new residency rules

The province also announced that 17 communities have chosen to opt into the principal residence requirement.

The legislation defines a principal residence as “the residence in which an individual resides for a longer period of time in a calendar year than any other place.”

That requirement will go into effect in more than 60 communities on May 1.

However, municipalities with fewer than 10,000 people, regional districts and resort municipalities were originally exempt from the principal residence requirement.

According to the news release, municipalities that have opted out include Tofino, Kent, Gabriola island, the municipality of Bowen Island, Osoyoos, Pemberton and several electoral districts on Vancouver Island.

Additionally, at the end of March, the province said strata hotels will be exempt from the STR rules.

“Strata hotels and motels that have been operating in a manner similar to a hotel or motel before Dec. 8, 2023, and that meet select criteria moving forward, will be exempt from the Principal Residence Requirement,” says the news release issued on April 18.

“Non-conforming use of property will no longer apply to (STRs). Under previous legal non-conforming use protections, if an existing use of land or a building did not conform to the new bylaw, it would have generally continued with legal non-conforming use.”

The province says STR visitors will not face any fines but encourages all visitors with reservations after May 1 to check that their host is complying with their local government’s regulations.

A full list of the regulations can be found at this link.

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