News / Vancouver

Vancouver releases proposed rules for Airbnb and other short-term rentals

About 70% of existing listings could remain legal, says Vancouver mayor

Vancouver city council will consider staff's proposed rules on short-term rentals on July 11, 2017.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Vancouver city council will consider staff's proposed rules on short-term rentals on July 11, 2017.

Vancouver’s mayor announced new regulations on Airbnb-like rentals Wednesday that aim to crack down on the city’s “largest hotel”.

If approved by council next week, up to 70 per cent of existing short-term listings – the vast majority of which exist on Airbnb and Expedia – will remain legal as long as operators obtain a business licence, said Mayor Gregor Robertson.

He called the proposed regulations a “balanced approach.”

“Our focus is to protect long-term rental housing and also that we ensure that people can make supplemental income from short-term rentals.”

That’s why Vancouver residents will not be allowed to list anything other than their principle residence as short-term rentals, he explained.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson addresses mayor at a press conference where he announced the city's proposed rules on short-term rentals.

Wanyee Li/Metro

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson addresses mayor at a press conference where he announced the city's proposed rules on short-term rentals.

All other types of housing should contribute to the long-term rental market in a city where the vacancy rate is 0.8 per cent, equal to about 1,200 available units, said Kathryn Holm, the city’s chief licencing inspector.

“We see those secondary suites, laneway homes, as potential long-term market housing and we want to do everything possible to encourage that,” she said.

Robertson added that about 1,000 units currently listed as short-term rentals will not qualify under the new business licence regulations and therefore could contribute to the long-term rental market.

That would effectively double the city’s vacancy rate.

Airbnb declined Metro’s interview request but said it welcomed Vancouver’s decision to regulate “home sharing.”

“Airbnb has worked cooperatively with the city and shared comprehensive data about our community. We are looking forward to reviewing the city’s report in detail and providing our response to city council,” the company said in a written statement.

More than 80 per cent of hosts in Vancouver list their primary residence on Airbnb, the company said.

Operators of short-term rentals, who can either be renters or home-owners, will need to obtain a business licence and pay an annual $49 fee to the city. Guests at short-term rentals will need to pay a three per cent transaction fee, similar to a hotel tax, to the booking platform, which will eventually go to the city as well.

Those measures will help level the playing field in the city’s accommodation industry, said Robertson, who called Airbnb “Vancouver’s largest hotel.”

Although the exact penalty for those who flout the rules has not been finalized, offenders could face fines around the $1,000 mark or even legal prosecution, said Holm. City staff will rely on both complaints from residents as well as audits of short-term rental operators to ensure compliance, she said.

So far this year, the city has received 150 complaints about short-term rentals, up from 148 complaints in all of 2016.  Complaints generally range from parking issues to noise, to safety issues, said Holm.

There are about 5,100 Airbnb hosts in Vancouver, according to the company.

City council will discuss the proposed short-term-rental regulations next week. The proposed rules, if approved, will be enacted April 2018. 

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