The Long and Short of It: City of Vancouver Tackling Short-Term Rentals

The City of Vancouver has started to take steps to address the use of short-term rental services such as Airbnb, Homeaway and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). Vancouver City Council recently approved a motion to ask City staff to come up with ways to regulate the use of these increasingly popular services.

In our previous post on the topic, we discussed the various legal considerations regarding the use of short-term rental services.

Since then, the City has asked its staff to suggest new ways in which the City could regulate services such as Airbnb. The motion does not propose ways in which the City could regulate these services. Some ideas City staff might explore come from other cities south of the border that have already taken steps to regulate this facet of the growing sharing economy.rppblog

For example, the City of Portland passed Ordinance No. 186736 on July 30, 2014 permitting short-term rentals in residential zones when the rental is also the proprietor's primary residence. In order to operate this type of short-term rental, the proprietor is required to obtain a short term rental permit and pay a Transient Lodging Tax. Similarly, just recently, the Austin City Council approved significant changes to the city’s Short-Term Rental ordinance. The revised ordinance imposes requirements for advertising, sets occupancy limits, places new requirements on those requesting short-term rental licenses, and creates a process for denying, suspending or revoking a license, along with an appeal process.

Other cities have taken a more aggressive stance against the use of short-term rental services. New York City has hired additional inspectors in order to crackdown on illegal short-term rentals.

Here in Canada, the Province of Quebec has also attempted to regulate the industry, requiring parties who rent their property on a short-term basis to acquire a certificate from the Ministry of Tourism and pay a lodging tax.

The number of listings on Airbnb in Vancouver has increased dramatically over the past few years. It is estimated that there are now nearly 4,800 listings for rentals in Vancouver compared to the estimated 2,900 in 2014. Whichever regulatory method Vancouver adopts, it will likely need to balance the City’s low rental vacancy rate with the increasing popularity of short-term rental services.

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