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The New Norm: Mastering B.C.’s Short-Term Rental Laws

The New Norm: Mastering B.C.’s Short-Term Rental Laws

The introduction of the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act in 2023 continues to take effect across the Province of British Columbia in Canada. If you're a B.C. host, this act will reshape how you list, manage and profit from your property.

As we peel back the layers of these new short-term rental regulations, understanding their nuances becomes critical — not just to stay compliant but to thrive in a changing landscape. This article is your compass in navigating the complexities of B.C.'s latest legislative turn, ensuring you're prepared for the wave of change about to hit the shores of its short-term rental industry.

What’s Happening with Short-Term Rentals in B.C.?

It’s become harder than ever to find affordable housing in British Columbia, and the prevalence of short-term rentals has made it even harder. That’s the argument made by the Government of British Columbia for introducing the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act to regulate short-term rentals in the province.

“The number of short-term rentals in B.C. has ballooned in recent years, removing thousands of long-term homes from the market. That’s why we’re taking strong action to rein in profit-driven mini-hotel operators, create new enforcement tools and return homes to the people who need them,” said Premier David Eby.

According to research from McGill University, there are approximately 28,000 daily active short-term rental listings in B.C., an increase of 20% from just a year ago. Sixteen-thousand entire homes are listed as short-term rentals for the majority of a calendar year. What’s more, the province estimates non-compliant short-term rental listings in 2023 to be about 40-50%.

The new regulations intended to return short-term rentals to the long-term housing market will start taking into effect from May 1, 2024.

What are the New Short-Term Rental Regulations in B.C.?

The new act is centered around three goals:

  • Returning more short-term rental units to the long-term housing market

  • Increasing fines for non-compliance and strengthening local government tools for enforcement

  • Establishing a new provincial role in regulating short-term rentals

Principal residence requirement

Starting May 1, 2024, B.C. will enforce a principal residence requirement for short-term vacation rentals.

This confines short-term rentals to the host's principal residence plus one secondary suite or an accessory dwelling unit. Rentals must be for a period of less than 90 consecutive days.

Increased fines and tickets

Having gone into effect in October 2023, the new act increased the maximum fine for prosecution of bylaw offenses from $2,000 to $50,000.

The maximum municipal ticketing fine that a local government may set under the Community Charter Bylaw Enforcement Ticket Regulation and Vancouver Charter By-Law Enforcement Ticket Regulation has also increased, from $1,000 to $3,000, per infraction, per day. This fine can be applied in municipalities, regional districts and the Islands Trust.

Business licensing

Regional districts have been given the authority to regulate and license short-term vacation rentals, similar to municipalities.

If your local government requires a business license, hosts will have to display their business license number on their listing starting May 1, 2024.

Platform accountability

Short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo will have to share information about B.C.-based listings on their sites with the provincial government from Summer 2024. This will help local governments to have non-compliant properties removed from booking platforms.

Provincial registry

The Government of B.C. aims to establish a short-term rental registry by late 2024 or early 2025.

Hosts will need to include their provincial registration number in their listings, and booking platforms will have to validate listed registration numbers against the province’s registry data.

By acting as a short-term rental database, the registry will provide the province and local governments with the information they need to follow up on compliance effectively.

Who Will Be Affected By B.C.’s New Short-Term Rental Laws?

The act applies to short-term rentals offered to the public, whether they are listed on OTAs like Airbnb and Vrbo, listing forums like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace or classified ads in newspapers.

The new rules will apply to communities with a population of over 10,000 people or those that are within 15km of a larger municipality. They range from Comox and Kelowna to Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe and Squamish and total 65 communities.

Some tourist destinations such as mountain resorts and ski resorts have been exempted, as have farm land and communities on Reserve lands and Nisga'a Lands. But the First Nation can choose to opt into all or part of the legislation.

The new legislation further exempts hotels, motels and accommodation types that can’t be easily converted into permanent housing such as tents and RVs.

Local governments can request to opt out of the principal residence requirement each year, if they have a rental vacancy rate of 3% or more for two consecutive years.

Local governments not currently affected can only choose to opt in via resolution.

What Should Short-Term Rental Hosts in B.C. Do?

Make sure you are fully compliant. If you have future bookings that need to be canceled so you remain within the remit of the law, do so. You don’t want to be caught out by the provincial compliance and enforcement unit that is to be established.

Remember that the new provincial regulations are meant to be minimum requirements. Make sure you are aware of your local government’s bylaws as they can often have additional restrictions. For instance, the City of Victoria and the City of Vancouver have set their own specific bylaws regarding short-term rentals. Review your local municipality’s regulations to ensure full compliance.

The Future of Short-Term Rentals in B.C.

The Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act is set to drastically impact the way most homeowners and vacation rental hosts operate across many of the communities in the province. Property managers looking to scale will have to find new models, leveraging short-term rental software like Hostaway to expand outside regulated communities and the provincial borders, creating a brand-new short-term vacation rental landscape.

Ready to find out how Hostaway can transform your business?

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