Whistler, Victoria crack down on short-term rentals like Airbnb

Whistler fines are $1,000 per-day for those renting without a license – and many can’t qualify for a license  
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Investors who plan to rent short-term residential space in two of B.C.’s favourite vacation spots will soon be facing regulatory headwinds.

Whistler, B.C.’s top ski resort, and the city of Victoria are cracking down on Airbnb-type short-term rentals. Whistler has 800 Airbnb "hosts," according to Alex Dagg, an Airbnb spokesman. Victoria has 1,600 Airbnb hosts.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) will require anyone marketing or leasing short-term rentals — such as those listed on sites like Airbnb — to acquire a business license 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 license.

The recommendations were endorsed at the May 23 council meeting, with initial readings given to three bylaws that Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said could come into effect July 31.

“What the business license will do is support the enforcement of, for example, illegal nightly rentals in neighbourhoods,” the mayor said.

Those found contravening the bylaw could face fines of $1,000 per day for infractions.

“The hotel association is supportive of anyone doing business through the proper channels,” said Hotel Association of Whistler president Saad Hasan, adding that the current environment makes it difficult to know who’s running illegal rentals.

The mayor also encourages anyone moving towards operating a short-term rental to first contact municipal hall to confirm the property’s zoning.

“If they’re thinking about short-term rentals, don’t go down that road until you’re certain that your property is zoned for that,” Wilhelm-Morde cautioned.

Meanwhile, downtown Victoria condo owners who use their units for short-term vacation rentals may soon have to take out business licenses and could see their units re-classified as a business for property tax purposes.

City staff is recommending regulations and city-wide enforcement to target houses, basement suites and garden suites being used for short-term rentals.

The moves are part of staff recommendations going to Victoria council next week designed to limit the rentals “ to the greatest extent possible” through mechanisms such as zoning and housing agreements.

The idea is to make sure all new residential units are used for housing and not vacation rentals, according to the city.

 - With files from Victoria Times Colonist

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