New regulations for short-term rentals

There are plenty of listings in the South Okanagan on vacation rental websites like Airbnb. Screenshot

The City of Penticton doesn’t want to stamp out short-term vacation rentals, but they do want to bring in some controls.

“I am glad we have this in front of us now … not in June,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. “The sharing economy is real, it is happening. I don’t thing we can continue to turn a blind eye.”

AirBnB and other home sharing services have created a huge underground economy. According a report from Anthony Haddad, director of planning services, there are 222 listings on Airbbnb in the Penticton area, 76 per cent renting the entire dwelling and 23 per cent renting out a room in their dwelling.

In 2015, these short-term rentals accounted for 4,000 guest stays, an increase of 152 per cent over 2014.

Another site, VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) has 333 rentals listed for Penticton and area.

City council adopted new regulations for short term residential accommodation in 2010, but Haddad said the uptake by the vacation rental industry has been relatively weak.

“City records currently show 72 business licenses for vacation rentals,” he wrote in his report. “Getting an absolute number of vacation rentals in Penticton is a difficult task, but staff is confident that the 72 licensed businesses represent less than half of those currently operating in the city.”

This type of rentals compete directly with established hotels, motels and bed and breakfast operations, as well as reducing the number of long-term rentals available, worsening the housing shortage.

In an effort to deal with the problem, Haddad proposed bringing in four categories of rentals for short-term rentals, depending on length of stay and number of guests, with all but the high occupant category being limited to two person per bedroom and a maximum of five guests. There would also be a graduated schedule of licensing fees.

Coun. Helena Konanz acknowledged concerns over short-term rentals, but said there are good reasons for supporting the concept. She says she has talked with people who are nervous about registering their short-term rental.

“They depend on this to help pay their mortgage, or to help them get their kids through school,” she said. “This is helping some people in our community. It is actually helping some people that are very responsible.”

Konanz said the regulations need to be simplified so people aren’t nervous about what they have to accomplish to make their rental legal.

“They are nervous they are going to be asked things that are difficult for them to produce,” said Konanz. As an example, she said that if people were forced to ask their neighbours before setting up a rental, they would probably get no as an answer.

“Bu tif they are being responsible and they are keeping the current bylaws by keeping noise levels down … that type of thing, I think they would all really like to comply,” said Konanz. “This is the biggest investment of their lives.

“I think the most important thing is you don’t push it further underground. I think people are going to hide.”

Konanz said a bigger problem for short term rentals are the absentee landlords.

“I am glad to have this discussion come forward. It has been a concern for a long time,” said Coun. Judy Sentes. “If you look at the number of people that are compliant, with the number that are blatantly advertising to the public, it is certainly an area that needs our attention.”

“They don’t live here, there is no one representing the house, they don’t know if five people show up or 15,” she said.

Council voted unanimously to have staff continuing to develop the bylaw amendments and bring them back to the March 7 council meeting, and make efforts to ensure greater compliance.

Related: Airbnb pledges to help B.C. cities regulate

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