New Law in BC to Control Short-Term Rentals

British Columbia's Housing Minister, Ravi Kahlon, has introduced a new law called the Short-term Rental Accommodations Act. The aim is to encourage thousands of homes to be returned to the regular rental market, as opposed to being used for short-term rentals on platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, Expedia, and FlipKey.
The law includes several new rules:
  • Higher Fines and Better Tools for Local Governments: Local governments can now impose fines of $3,000 per day for each violation (previously $1,000). Regional districts have the authority to issue business licenses for regulating short-term rentals in rural areas and can levy fines of up to $50,000. Short-term rental platforms must share data with municipalities and display business license numbers on their listings, but no private host information will be disclosed.
  • Returning More Short-Term Rentals to Long-Term Housing: In municipalities with over 10,000 people, short-term rentals are only allowed in the host's principal residence, which can include one secondary suite and one laneway home. Owners of short-term rental units must live on the property as their principal residence. The law eliminates a previous rule that allowed short-term units to operate under non-conforming status. There will be some areas exempt from the principal residence requirement, like smaller municipalities, resort regions, mountain resort areas (except those near larger cities), and regional district electoral areas.
  • Establishing Provincial Rules and Enforcement: The province will create a host and platform registry by late 2024 and launch a unit to enforce short-term rental compliance.

Exemptions to the law include municipalities with a vacancy rate over 3%, resort regions like Whistler, hotels, communities on First Nations reserve land (but they can choose to opt-in), and other types of properties like timeshares and fishing lodges.These new rules will be phased in:
  • Starting on May 1, 2024, the principal residence requirement, the requirement for business licenses on platforms, and changes closing loopholes will take effect.
  • During the summer of 2024, short-term rental platforms will have to share data with the province and municipalities.
  • By late 2024, a provincial registry for platforms will be mandatory.

Some interesting facts about short-term rentals in BC include 30 municipalities introducing bylaws and license fees to manage them. In Vancouver, over 30% of short-term rentals are operating illegally. In the District of Squamish, short-term rental units increased by 38% from 2021 to 2022, and less than half of them comply with regulations. The BC Government estimates that in 2023, 40 to 50% of short-term rental listings are non-compliant.A report from the Conference Board of Canada found that Airbnb activity hasn't caused increased rents in major Canadian cities.