British Columbia

City of Vancouver steps up enforcement on illegal short term rentals

Just three weeks after the city of Vancouver announced its plan to regulate short term rentals, city inspectors say they're stepping up enforcement against illegal short term suites, including those advertised on sites like Airbnb.

Staff says a previous court challenge has already led to compliance

The city has made a list of the types of illegal short-term rental properties it wants to crack down on. (Airbnb.ca)

Just three weeks after the city of Vancouver announced its plan to introduce a framework to regulate short term rentals, city inspectors say they're stepping up enforcement against illegal short term suites, including those advertised on sites like Airbnb.

City staff members say they've received 55 complaints so far this year related to illegal short term rentals. That's a significant increase from the 19 received last year.

Staff have now created a list of the types of illegal suites they will be targeting.

Andreea Toma, the city of Vancouver's chief licensing inspector, says unsafe buildings are at the top of the list.

"We've come across a few scenarios where there were sheds on a person's property that were turned from storage into living spaces that were never intended to be habitable spaces," said Toma.

Toma says the city is also focusing on short-term rentals in publicly funded rental housing, buildings with multiple units and short-term rental property management companies.

Still relying on complaints

Despite the pledge to step up enforcement, the city says it's still relying on complaints to track down illegal suites.

"We're not proactive, we're not looking for establishments. But as complaints do come, we check the validity and we do investigate,"  said Toma.

Earlier this month, the city announced plans to introduce a program to license certain short-term rentals.

The move is meant to stop owners from renting out vacant properties on a short-term basis and return those units to the long-term rental market.

The city defines short-term rentals as those with terms under 30 days.

Under its bylaws, all short-term rentals are illegal unless they are licensed bed and breakfasts or hotels.

Petition leads to compliance

Earlier this month, the city of Vancouver filed a petition in B.C. Supreme court to stop the nightly rental on Airbnb of a 2-bedroom suite in the Fairview neighbourhood.

The petition was believed to be the first time the city used its bylaws to challenge a short-term rental company.

Toma says the owners of that unit have since contacted the city and are willing to work with it.

"I'm happy to say they do want to comply with our city bylaws ... at the end of the day, that's what we want: voluntary compliance," said Toma.

City staff estimate there are about 5,300 active Airbnb listings in Vancouver and that only a fraction of those require a minimum stay of 30 days or are licensed hotels or bed and breakfasts.

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