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B.C.'s short-term rental regulations include $10K daily penalties for Airbnb, other platforms

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Short-term rental platforms that violate B.C.'s pending regulations can face administrative penalties of up to $10,000 per day, officials announced Thursday.

Investigations into non-compliant companies and individual hosts will be conducted by a provincial enforcement unit, which will launch once the new rules take effect on May 1.

The Ministry of Housing said daily penalties will range from $500 to $5,000 for hosts, depending on the infraction, and reach as high as $10,000 for corporations.

Speaking at a news conference in Langley, Premier David Eby reiterated that the purpose of the province's regulations is to open up thousands of potential long-term housing units that are currently being offered year-round on apps such as Airbnb and VRBO.

"The commitment that we have as government is to ensure that the housing stock that we have – the homes that are actually built – are available for people who are looking for a place to live," Eby said.

The premier acknowledged his family, like many others in the province, has benefited from the availability of short-term rentals, and stressed that those types of accommodations will not be banned outright next month.

But the government previously calculated there were 19,000 whole homes being used exclusively as short-term rentals last year.

"I can tell you there are 19,000 families and individual that are looking for a place to live … right now that are in competition with people who are looking to operate homes like hotels," Eby said.

The upcoming regulations

Under the new rules, hosts can still rent out their primary residence, as well as one "additional unit, secondary suite or laneway home" on the same property, according to the ministry.

Those rules apply in every B.C. community with more than 10,000 residents, and to any others that opt in – as several already have, including Tofino, Pemberton, Osoyoos and Bowen Island. The rules will take effect in those smaller communities in November.

And once the regulations take effect, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon stressed that guests themselves "will not face any fines."

"We encourage people to continue to explore beautiful British Columbia, and stay in legal short-term rental accommodations," Kahlon said.

Officials have recommended anyone planning to stay in a short-term rental on or after May 1 reach out to the host to confirm that the unit will be in compliance.

It's unclear which violations will potentially cost platforms $10,000 per day. The government has said companies will be required to share user data to help municipalities and the province conduct their own enforcement, as the regulations also give local bylaw officers the ability to impose fines of up to $3,000 per day on hosts.

Platforms will be expected to remove listings from non-compliant users under some circumstances as well.

Airbnb touts economic benefits

The announcement from officials came hours after Airbnb shared an "economic analysis" estimating that the platform generated more than $2.5 billion in economic benefits across the province last year.

According to the company, for every $100 a guest spent on an Airbnb rental, they spent about $229 on other local goods and services.

“B.C.'s new short-term rental law is going to significantly impact the province's tourism sector, just as peak tourism season arrives – taking extra income away from residents, limiting accommodation options for guests, and potentially putting at risk billions in tourism spending and economic impact," Nathan Rotman, Canadian policy lead at Airbnb, said in a statement.

But officials have claimed the pending rules are already having a positive effect on housing availability – addressing a major crisis in the province – as former hosts choose to either become landlords or put their properties up for sale.

Kahlon said some companies, such as Expedia and Booking.com, have been "actively working to get ready for the coming changes," and that he's hopeful other platforms will follow suit by May 1. 

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