British Columbia

New Airbnb rules could shut down 1,000 short-term listings in Vancouver, says mayor

Vancouverites renting out their homes on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites will soon need a new business licence, according to Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Only those living at a principal residence would be able to apply for a short-term rental licence

A woman looks at a computer screen with Airbnb logo on it.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says Airbnb hosts will soon require business licences. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says a new proposal that would require people to get a licence for Airbnb and other short-term rentals could put up to 1,000 homes back into the long-term rental pool.

That's because short-term rentals of less than 30 days would only be legal in homes that are principal residences, Robertson revealed Wednesday at city hall.

"Housing is first and foremost for homes, not operating a business," said Robertson.

"Both the city's research and broad public input tells us we can have short-term rentals in Vancouver to help supplement income, while ensuring long-term rents are back in the rental market."

The proposal comes the week after Robertson revealed a proposal to tax empty or vacant homes that are not principal residences, with the aim of getting empty investment properties back in the rental pool.

Restricted to principal residences

Under the proposed rules for short-term rentals, homeowners would be able to get a licence for their principal dwelling.

They would not be able to get a licence for secondary units on the property  — such as basement suites and laneway homes — according to Matheny Krishna, the city's general manager of building licensing.

"We are defining it by the dwelling unit, not the entire property. So if there are laneway homes and secondary units, those are not considered," said Krishna on Wednesday.

"Those would be separate units and those would be required to have a licence, or in this case it wouldn't be their principal unit so they wouldn't be able to do it."

But under the proposed rules tenants with long-term leases for secondary units would be able to get licences, but only if they have a landlord's permission in writing.

Likewise owners of secondary properties such as investment condos or vacation properties would not be eligible to licence units for short-term rentals.

But tenants with long-term leases and the landlord's permission would be able to get a short-term rental licence for those properties.

About 85 per cent of the 5,000 short term rentals in Vancouver are listed on Airbnb according to a city study. (Airbnb)

Both owners and tenants of strata property would need to prove their strata by-laws permit short-term rentals.

Other listings that are not considered legal dwelling units, such as boats, vehicles and trailers would also not be eligible under the proposed rules.

In addition, the proposed regulations would require short-term rental operators to post their business licence number in any advertisement.

The city would also make all the business licence information public.

The mayor also revealed any short term rentals may be subject to a hotel tax or other tax that would be re-invested to fund affordable housing initiatives in the city.

The proposal will go to city council next week, and staff are expected to draw up the final regulations by early next year.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that homeowners would be able to use basement suites and laneway homes for short-term rentals. In fact, under the proposed rules, homeowners would not be eligible to use secondary units for short-term rentals.
    Sep 29, 2016 10:00 AM PT