Vacation rentals no holiday for South Okanagan officials

Regional district sends bylaws for vacation rentals to public hearing, but opinions still mixed on procedure to crack down on nuisances

New rules to regulate vacation rentals in rural areas of the South Okanagan have yet to win over local politicians and the public.

Planning staff at the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen have worked since January 2012 on a set of bylaws to help crack down on nuisance properties. Those bylaws received preliminary approval at Thursday’s RDOS board meeting and will now be sent to public hearings.

At the core of the new rules is a requirement for homeowners to obtain a temporary-use permit from the board, but not everyone is convinced the permits will solve the problem.

“I’ve been asked, ‘If we can’t enforce our zoning bylaws as they currently exist, then how is it we’re going to be more empowered to enforce offences of zoning under the TUP permit?” said Tom Siddon, the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden.

“If we can’t enforce, we can’t enforce, and people who don’t choose to pay or apply for a TUP can still do as they please…. One way or another, we still have an enforcement challenge.”

Naramata Director Karla Kozakevich acknowledged that shortcoming, but said the permits will provide “a much stronger tool” if the RDOS takes a wayward homeowner to court. She also suggested permits offer a relatively easy way for homeowners to make their rentals legal.

At one “ongoing problem” house in Naramata, “they teach their renters to say that they’re just friends and family and it goes on that way.” Kozakevich said.

“My goal would be… to approach that individual, because his understanding of this is it’s illegal, to now say, ‘Look, you can come into compliance by doing a TUP,’ and get him to get on board with that and better understanding how he’s impacting the neighbours.”

Each 18-month permit would require notification of neighbours before it’s issued by the board, which could choose not to renew licences for homes that attracted complaints. The $750 cost of a new permit was also criticized.

“That isn’t engaging anyone to come in and register. It should almost be for nothing if you really want to find out where these vacation rentals are,” said Bruce Hallquist, a director for Summerland.

Penticton Director John Vassilaki said it’s more than the “excessive fee” that will dissuade some people from getting a permit: “It’s the tax problem they’re going to have once they’re registered, because now they’ll have to claim what they make on their income taxes, and that’s another big stumbling block to this coming forward.”

Permit costs will be dealt with separately from the main vacation rentals bylaw package that will be put out for comment at a series of hearings in Osoyoos, Okanagan Falls and Naramata on dates yet to be determined.

The RDOS board also received 30 pages of comments from government agencies and the public.