Victoria to issue $500 fines for unlicensed short-term rentals

City estimates close to 1,000 unlicensed Airbnb-style rentals are operating in Victoria neighbourhoods.

City estimates close to 1,000 unlicensed Airbnb-style rentals are operating in Victoria

The City of Victoria set rules earlier this year for the operation of short-term rentals. Now, it is putting fines in place to enforce the rules. (Getty Images/RooM RF)

Victoria has moved to issue fines of $500 to anyone who operates a short-term rental unit without a business licence. 

The enforcement measure follows a bylaw that was passed in the spring to regulate the operation of vacation rentals in the capital's tight housing market.

Since that bylaw went into effect in April, city staff have processed 455 applications for licences, a report to council said.

Bylaw officers will now be able to issue a $500 fine for operating without a licence. Other fines include $250 for failure to include a business licence number in advertising and $350 for failing to designate a person responsible for the unit.

"We are not blazing a trail here. In a lot of ways, we are playing catch-up with other cities, especially tourist cities around the world," said Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday.

The city has also hired a company to determine how many short-term rentals are operating without a licence. It found that number could be close to a thousand.

'A lot of work to do'

The hope is fines will provide more of an incentive to follow the new rules.

"There's still a lot of work to do, and I think that is when we need to turn to a little more education but also enforcement," Loveday said.

"Hopefully, that will return a good number of these units to the housing market."

Bylaw officers have also responded to 58 complaints from the public about short-term rentals operating outside the bylaw.

Under Victoria's rules, rentals for a period of less than 30 days are only allowed for rooms in a primary residence, or, occasionally, the entire home can be rented, for example if the owner is on vacation.

Self-contained suites within a home don't qualify, unless a renter offers it as as short-term rental on occasion.

If a unit is located in a transient zone such as the downtown core where hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts are allowed to operate, it may be considered legally non-conforming and short-term rentals would be allowed with a license, pending strata approval.

Business licences cost between $200 and $1,500, depending on the unit.

The fees are being used to add resources for the city's bylaw department, Loveday said.

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