Victoria cracks down on illegal short-term vacation rentals

·2 min read
The City of Victoria is beefing up enforcement of the short-term rental rules it introduced in 2018.  (Ken Mizokoshi/CBC - image credit)
The City of Victoria is beefing up enforcement of the short-term rental rules it introduced in 2018. (Ken Mizokoshi/CBC - image credit)

Years after bringing in regulations, the City of Victoria is cracking down on illegal short-term rental operators, buoyed by recent wins in court.

Councillor Jeremy Loveday says the court has sided with the city in four recent rulings, which resulted in $20,000 in fines and court orders prohibiting five people from operating short-term rentals.

"The city so far has taken an education-first, rather patient approach to enforcement but at this point, we're moving forward with proactive enforcement and I think these court cases show that our bylaws will hold up," Loveday said.

The City of Victoria introduced a bylaw to regulate the operation of vacation rentals in the capital's tight housing market in 2018. Later that year, it introduced fines of $500 per day to anyone who operates a short-term rental unit without a business licence.

Business licences cost between $150 and $1,500, depending on the residence.

Loveday says the point of the measures was to make sure that short-term housing was prioritized for residents who are renting, especially during a housing crisis.

He says he doesn't have exact data on how the scheme may have helped in that area, but he's heard of some success stories.

"Anecdotally I've heard from people who used to operate them that now are finding that the rental market is working out for them in terms of having a stable long-term tenant in the place of what was a vacation rental," he said, adding that there are far fewer short-term rentals being listed now, compared to when the regulations were first introduced.

In terms of enforcement, Loveday says it's mainly driven by complaints, but there is some proactive work as well.

"There is an approach that uses data from websites as well and investigative approach that allows us to make sure that we know which short-term vacation rentals are [in] operation in the city without a licence and we can proactively work to bring those operators into compliance," he said.

Under Victoria's rules, rentals for a period of less than 30 days are only allowed for rooms in a primary residence, or occasionally for an entire home if the owner is on vacation.

A self-contained unit is generally not permitted to be used as a short-term rental, unless a renter rents it out on occasion with the owner's permission.

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