One operator fined $20K for violating Vancouver’s short-term rental regulations

Vancouver Courier

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One commercial operator who had 35 short-term rental listings in two properties in the city has been fined $20,000 for one property and is going to trial for the second, while another two operators pleaded guilty in Provincial Court to violating the city’s new short-term rental regulations and were each fined $2,500.

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The City of Vancouver Thursday released the latest numbers since the new regulations went into effect Sept. 1, 2018. Chief licence inspector Kathryn Holm said since then the city’s enforcement team has opened more than 2,000 case files and taken enforcement action, including issuing warning letters, tickets and pursuing legal action, against 820 suspected unauthorized short-term rental properties.

As of March 6, a total of 274 tickets have been issued with $32,000 in fines collected, in addition to the $25,000 in fines awarded through court action. Operators are fined $1,000 per offence, however, that fine is lowered to $500 if paid within 10 days.

Other enforcement activity to date includes:

  • 520 licences flagged for investigations and audits
  • 309 warning letters written
  • 142 legal orders issued
  • 92 units identified for inspection
  • 89 listings referred to prosecution
  • 17 business licences suspended

“We are pleased with the early results of our approach to regulating short-term rentals in Vancouver,” Holm said. “We will continue to identify and enforce against operators who knowingly evade our bylaws.”

In the last six months, the city has received 757 complaints from residents about suspected illegal short-term rentals.

“We thank the members of the public who continue to provide us with information about suspected illegal operators via our dedicated reporting channels, which are 311, VanConnect and our website,” Holm said.

The city stresses that it does not investigate or enforce based on information related to suspected illegal listings posted to social media, and in order to start an investigation the team needs a complete address, including unit number, if applicable, as well as evidence of online marketing.

As of early March, there were 4,720 active short-term rental listings in the city, down from 6,600 when the regulations went into effect, and 2,628 business licences issued. In addressing the discrepancy between the number of listings and licences, Holm said some of those operators might not have renewed their 2018 business licence yet.

“We have been actively working with our licence holders from 2018 to ensure they understand the need to renew their business licence and they are doing so,” she said. “At this point, though, as of mid-March we will be pursuing enforcement against those who have not yet renewed their licence.”

Adopted in November 2017, the city’s new short-term rental regulations went into effect last April and new and existing hosts had until Aug. 31, 2018 to obtain a licence and comply with the regulations.

“We have seen an incredibly high uptake of licencing, both last year and ongoing into this year relative to what other cities around the world have seen,” Holm said. “That has been a very promising outcome of our program thus far, to see how many operators in Vancouver are willing and able to comply with our bylaws.”

“The early results of enforcement is the first six months of our new short-term rentals program are encouraging,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a news release. “This program is one of many designed to move more supply into the long-term rental market because housing our city needs to be first and foremost for those who live and work in Vancouver.”

However, the city has yet to be able to quantify how many former short-term rental units have been returned to the long-term rental market.

“That’s a question that we are continuing to determine how to best answer,” Holm said. “That’s a question that cities around the world continue to struggle with how to best quantify, how many short-term rental units are being transformed into long-term rental supply. We are actively trying to develop a way to measure that.”

Residents can report suspected illegal short-term rentals either by calling 311, completing an online form on the city website or submitting a report through the VanConnect app.

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