British Columbia

Kelowna joins cities looking to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb

Kelowna is tackling the regulation of short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb to ensure fairness for local hotels and a better experience for tourists.

Tofino and Kelowna are struggling to control the number of short-term rental units in their cities

A search for short-term rentals in Kelowna on Airbnb shows there are more than 300 properties available. (Airbnb)

Kelowna is tackling the regulation of short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb to ensure fairness for local hotels and a better experience for tourists.

The city says it's concerned that, with no regulation, the providers of these short-term rentals have no standard to be held to.

"As soon as you add a business licensing component, that may come with an annual inspection," said Ryan Smith, community planning manager with the City of Kelowna

"And that's the first step in making sure that visitors to our city can expect a reasonable standard of living when they come, even for a short time." 

An initial report to council will be submitted in upcoming weeks that will consider options like enforcement and licensing, as well as potentially restricting the proximity of one vacation rental to another.

The city says it receives about 30 to 40 complaints per year about short-term rentals — most of them noise and parking-related.

"How do you make sure that it happens in a way that doesn't have a great impact on the neighbourhoods," Smith told CBC's On The Coast

"There's other issues like making sure the vacation rentals play on the same level playing field as the local hotel operators."

Currently, it's illegal to rent out a house in a residential zone in Kelowna for a period of less than 30 days. In the downtown area, it's legal to do so without a licence.

Taking note of popular strategy

The District of Tofino has regulations for vacation rentals that have been in place for a decade, but have never been firmly enforced. 

Kelowna city staff is taking note of its strategy and hopes to implement a similar licensing protocol. 

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne says the district is now cracking down by cross-checking online search results for short-term rentals against the number of home owners who have a business licence and proper zoning to operate one. 

"We've created a set of regulations that enables people to use part of their property to achieve an income through short-term rentals," said Osborne, adding the strategy isn't likely to address other issues around access to affordable housing. 

Aaron Zifkin, country manager of Airbnb Canada, says the company is aware of the challenges cities face. 

He told CBC earlier this year that Airbnb will work with cities to update their rules to reflect current regulations, while still allowing people to make extra income on their homes.