Vacation home landlords will soon face steep fines if they’ve skirted legal business requirements.
Owners renting out their homes for short-term rentals through apps like AirBNB and VRBO have faced regulations and taxes from the City since spring 2018. The City began with an education process, encouraging owners to sign up for one of two different business licences, but will soon move to enforcement.
Starting December 2018, the City partnered with Host Compliance, a company that will monitor the web for listings to identify properties running illegally. An early search estimates 1,288 properties are listed online, of which only half have proper licences.
“We are trying to get voluntary compliance,” said Barrie Cockle, leader of bylaw services. “We are having good success with that, and we’ll see in the next month or so if that drops or continues, and at that point we’ll use our third party, Host Compliance, to see who is operating and send some letters.”
Cockle said that at the end of December more than 300 warning letters were sent out to unregistered owners, and that there’s been a positive response.
More than 150 businesses discontinued, while 20 people are applying in person per week. Since Jan. 1, 287 applications (new and renewals) have been processed online, with may more pending.
Owners are eligible for one of two types of licences; the first is a principal operator license for owners who live on property. This costs $150 per year, and so far 259 have been issued.
The second type is for non-principal operators, for those who do not live on property, and cost $1,500 per year. So far 365 of these licences have been issued.
For any stragglers, however, hefty fines can be issued.
“The fee for operating a business without a licence is $500,” Cockle said. “But those fees could be applied every day the site is still active.”
Similar actions have been taken in Vancouver, and in the most extreme cases owners were taken to court for injunction when they didn’t comply with municipal bylaws.
Cockle said that even if hosts have blocked off their availability on sites, the City will still have to treat it as a potential business, so he recommended inactive advertisements be removed altogether.
For more information on short-term rental licensing, head to victoria.ca/str
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