Province Introduces Short-Term Rental Legislation
On Monday, October 16, the Honourable Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing, introduced the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act, aimed at regulating short-term rental accommodations (STRAs) and curbing their impact on the province’s housing supply.
The Act and proposed regulations envision overlapping jurisdiction between the Province and local governments, strengthening local regulation of STRAs, while placing the Province primarily in the role of information coordinator. The Province assumes that municipalities and regional districts are and will be taking an active role in regulating STRAs in their communities under their zoning and business licensing powers. Many municipalities have already taken steps to regulate STRAs, but they will still benefit from additional compliance enforcement tools and information sharing. Regional districts will acquire business licensing powers to regulate STRAs outside municipal boundaries and enable intermunicipal licensing arrangements with municipalities.
Key features of the Act include creation of a provincial STRA registry. Hosts will be required to register when they offer STRA and provide contact information and other details. Platforms for STRA listings (e.g., Airbnb, VRBO) will likewise have to register, and they will be responsible for ensuring that STRA listings are validly registered and removing listings that are not. Non-compliant hosts and platforms may have their registration suspended or cancelled, and they may be subject to provincial compliance orders, injunctions, and administrative penalties. The province will share the information it collects with local governments to support bylaw enforcement.
The Act will also restrict STRA offers to a host’s principal residence and one suite, if the STRA unit is in a municipality of at least 10,000 people or a less populous municipality nearby. Exemptions will apply for certain rural and resort communities, while municipalities of at least 10,000 people will be permitted to opt-out if they have a residential vacancy rate over three percent. Otherwise exempt local governments will be permitted to opt-in to the principal residence requirement if they wish.
Implementing the Act will also entail increasing bylaw fines, raising the existing $1,000 limit to $3,000, as well as increasing the penalty to which a person may be subject if convicted of a regional district bylaw contravention that constitutes an offence. Such bylaw offences will be punishable by a fine up to $50,000, on par with the maximum fine for municipal bylaw offences under the Community Charter.
Of special note is how the Act will alter the usual rules for non-conforming uses with regard to STRAs. In the past, many STRA enforcement efforts failed because owners were able to make out a non-conforming use defence – many older zoning bylaws were not well-drafted to deal with the somewhat subtle distinction between a lawful residential occupancy of a dwelling unit and an unlawful STRA use of the same dwelling unit. In an extreme case in Victoria, a property owner was able to make out a non-conforming use defence for an under-construction strata lot, solely on the basis that STRA was one of the uses that the zoning bylaw allowed in the building when the building permit was issued. The Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act eliminates all non-conforming use defences by making the relevant sections of the Local Government Act inapplicable to this type of land use.
If adopted, the Act will come into force in stages (by regulation) as the government establishes the necessary administrative machinery.
Bill Buholzer & Aidan Andrews