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Vancouver homeowners using Airbnb will need a business license

Last Updated Sep 28, 2016 at 3:03 pm PST

(Photo by Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)
Summary

People will have to get a business license to rent their home out on Airbnb

The city warns of fines or legal action if owners violate the licensing terms

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The City of Vancouver is targeting people who put their place up for rent through services like Airbnb with new regulations in an effort to help increase the near-zero per cent rental vacancy rate.

The proposed laws say people will have to get a business license to offer short-term rentals (less than 30 days) in principal homes, whether they are owned or rented and renting out non-primary residents will be illegal. The proposal is part of a report going to city council next week.

“Vancouver is striking a balance in our approach to short-term rentals that ensures the best use of all our housing. Long-term rental supply will be protected and residents will be able to do short-term rentals in their principal residences,” explains Mayor Gregor Robertson.

“Housing is first and foremost for homes, not operating a business. Both the city’s research and broad public input tell us we can have short-term rentals in Vancouver to supplement income while ensuring long-term rentals are back in the rental market.”

He claims the vast majority of short-term rentals are illegal under current bylaws.

“It’s incumbent upon the city to take bold steps, like regulating short-term rentals and dealing with empty homes, to make sure we get more homes in the long-term rental market.”

People offering spaces will have to prove they actually own the unit, and if it’s in a condo development, they’ll have to show approval of their strata council.

“The goal is the units that are not principal residences will be returned so people who want to live and work in Vancouver can do so,” explains the city’s General Manager of Development Services, Building and Licensing, Kaye Krishna.

“Under the proposed regulations, we expect about 50 to 60 per cent of full units and about all the private rooms will be able to be rented on the short-term.”

The city thinks about 1,000 homes currently on Airbnb will be banned under the rule changes and it warns it will be closely monitoring short-term rental listings.

Vision councillor Geoff Meggs says the city would enforce the new laws with automated random checks of online ads to make sure the person renting the space has their license.

“There will be a randomized audit using computer software to check out who we’ve got out there listing and make sure they’re licensed,” Meggs says.

Those without a permit will get a deadline to get a license or remove their ad. Operators who refuse will be subject to legal fines and legal action, including losing their ability to get a business license for at least a year.

Meggs says he doesn’t expect the city will have to hire more staff to enforce the laws and that the plan will use the business license fees collected to fund enforcement and keep the program self-sustaining.

If these new rules are approved by city council next week, the city says there will be a public consultation process and meetings with stakeholders to refine the regulations before they’re implemented which isn’t expected until next year.

A new report from Airbnb shows frequently booked homes outcompete the long-term market and only represent just over 0.11 per cent of all of Vancouver’s housing units.

Frequently booked home listings, which are those that aren’t lower than what you might rent the unit for long-term, were less than a half a per cent of the overall housing market. It says 90 per cent of homes in that category were rented for less than half the year while just under half were rented for 30 days or less.

The report says, overall, only three per cent of the city’s available entire home rentals were used by Airbnb in the last year while only four per cent have hosted a trip at all since the service began.