Pemberton council reviews impact of Short Term Rental Act on village

The Village of Pemberton (VOP) will opt-in to new provincial legislation governing short-term rentals after council gave its assent last month.

At the regular council meeting on March 19, Pemberton council recommended staff submit a request to the Province of British Columbia to have the VOP included in the principal residence requirement for short-term rental accommodation. Council also directed staff to draft amendments to Zoning Bylaw No. 832, 2018 and Business Licence Bylaw No. 855, 2019, to bring the VOP’s lone existing bed and breakfast business into compliance with Village bylaws, and to draft an amendment to Zoning Bylaw No. 832, 2018, to align the Village’s definition of short-term vacation rental with the definition set out in the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act.

B.C. introduced the Short Term Rental Act to return much needed-homes to the rental market for British Columbians. Data collected by the province shows more than 16,000 entire homes are being used as short-term rentals for the majority of the year in B.C. Many local governments around B.C. have now taken action to regulate short-term rentals. The maximum fine that regional districts can set for prosecutions of bylaw offences under the Offence Act has increased from $2,000 to $50,000.

“Short-term rental” refers to renting out a furnished room, suite, home, apartment, cabin or condo for a short-term stay (for a period of less than 90 days at a time).

The purpose of the Act is to: Give local governments stronger tools to enforce short-term rental bylaws; Return short-term rental units to the long-term housing market; and establish a new Provincial role in the regulation of short-term rentals.

At the March 19 meeting, Mayor Mike Richman brought concerns to the table over how the new legislation would affect homeowners who rent out their houses while travelling.

“The less than 90 days is a little restrictive in the sense that some people go away for a couple of months at a time to visit people elsewhere in the country,” he said. “I don’t want to overly regulate how people use their own homes when they are living their lives.”

Councillor Laura Ramsden offered a similar thought, noting lots of people in the community would be affected by the act.

“I can think of people who are coming up for the construction or people who are visiting the community,” she said. “They are staying here and working, but aren’t going to be here for three months.”

Gwendolyn Kennedy, manager of corporate and legislative services, said those people may be able to seek another form of license.

“I have seen it done before. Someone who rents out their own home while they are away might have a different category of licensing than someone who rents out their suite all the time,” she said. “Those who rent it when they are away are in a different position. They are going away for travel. If they were under a different business licensing, then there might not be the same hardship on them.”

Richman asked if a house swap would fall into the category of short-term rentals, and was told that wasn’t one of the exceptions.

Coun. Katrina Nightingale also wondered if there was a way of distinguishing people who rent out their homes while on vacation from commercial operators.

“I just want to support what Coun. Ramsden was saying,” she said. “There are a lot of people who have principal residence and want to go away for a month and rent it out. I don’t think they should be penalized for wanting to do something like that. They have gardens to take care of and all those things. Having someone in the residence is very helpful.”

Richman agreed those who want to rent out their homes while away should be able to do so.

“It’s their biggest asset,” he said. “It’s their home. They should be able to have that flexibility in their ownership.”

Staff were asked to come back to a Committee of a Whole meeting with flexibility options for people who rent out their homes while travelling.

The existing B&B business in the village is operated in the host’s principal residence and would therefore not be impacted by the Village opting-in to the provincial principal residence requirement. Changing the Village definition of short-term rental (30 days or less) to align with the provincial definition (less than 90 days) would similarly have no impact on the business, staff found. However, when they compared the operations of the B&B to Village bylaws, staff noted the business does not conform to Village B&B licence regulations for two reasons: It offers too many rooms (the limit is two bedrooms for a B&B licence); and it offers cooking facilities (which are not permitted in a B&B facility).

Staff proposed minor bylaw amendments to bring the business into compliance.

Roisin Cullen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Pique Newsmagazine