Whistler is considering a bylaw to help crack down on illegal overnight rentals in its residential neighbourhoods, which would also affect short term rentals through websites like Airbnb.

Any home rental under four consecutive weeks is illegal in Whistler, but enforcement has become an issue as rentals continue to proliferate, reducing the available housing supply.  

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden says Whistler wants to preserve its rental stock for people that need and want to live in Whistler, including employees who are being thrown out of residential housing.

"We don't want our employees shoved out the back door, so that tourists can now rent those units on a nightly basis," said Wilhelm-Morden. "That's not the model that works for us."

The proposed bylaw would require all tourist rentals, like hotels, condos, hostels and bed and breakfasts to have a business licence for an annual cost of $165.

"You can't get a business licence unless you're properly zoned, so we simply monitor the marketing and if people are marketing their units as available for nightly or short term rental, and they don't have a business licence, they will be issued a ticket with a fine of $1,000 per day," said Wilhelm-Morden.

In a notice to residents, the municipality outlined the bylaw's intent and appealed for feedback at a June 6 meeting.

The municipality says council and staff received feedback from 65 people, and the recommendations will come before it at an upcoming meeting. 

Beyond the crunch on workers' housing, Wilhelm-Morden says tourist accommodation isn't suited for residential subdivisions, because they don't have infrastructure like street lights and garbage pickup.

In addition, she says illegal rentals put their own insurance at risk and risk the safety of their guests. 

"We've had instances where someone has called 911 for some kind of emergency service, and they don't know the address of the place they're staying at. They don't even know what subdivision they're in, so our subdivisions simply are not set up for tourist accommodation."

Airbnb

Whistler's mayor says Airbnb is appealing to Whistler residents and city staff to change its zoning system to permit home sharing. (John MacDougall/Getty Images)

Airbnb responds

According to one resident, Airbnb learned of the municipality's proposed changes and sent an email to some Whistler residents a few days ago, warning them that a ban on home sharing in residential zoned neighbourhoods would create "a confusing and imbalanced system for residents and guests."

The email went on to urge members of the home-sharing community to communicate to the mayor and city council why home sharing should be permitted in all zones. 

While the mayor of Whistler says the bylaw is not directed towards Airbnb, but illegal nightly rentals, she says Airbnb has sent a letter to her pleading that Whistler change its zoning system. 

With files from On the Coast