Most Vancouver short-term rentals licensed, not all following the law
VANCOUVER - The majority of Vancouver's short-term rentals are now licensed, but the city says not all of the operators are following the rules.
Last September, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to require a business licence for anyone wanting to operate on short-term rental sites like VRBO or Airbnb. A year later, 73 per cent of Vancouver’s 4,700 short-term rentals are now licenced, one of the highest compliance rates in North America. But the city's regulations state that short-term rentals can only be operated from a principal residence—a rule that the city believes not everyone is following.
"Yes we have issued licences, and we do have reason to suspect there has been a misrepresentation around principal residency," said Vancouver’s chief licence inspector Kathryn Holm. "When we have those instances, we create a case file and we commence investigation and an audit."
Since licencing became mandatory, 3,000 case files have been opened with $62,000 in fines collected and an additional 120 prosecutions now underway.
"There is a persistence of operators who choose to not comply with bylaws, and that is not unique to Vancouver, it's consistent across the world," said Holm.
Currently only Airbnb provides the listing owner’s personal data to the city to help with enforcement and requires operators have a licence before posting. “Because people know that if you don’t want to comply you move to the other platforms, you go to booking.com or you go to VRBO which is owned by Expedia,” said Alexandra Dagg, Airbnb’s director of public policy in Canada. Dagg would like to see a level playing field for all short-term rental companies in Vancouver.
The city says its first year of licensing enforcement has been a success and is warning any short-term rental operators who are continuing to ignore the law.
"I would say it is only a matter of time until we find a non-compliant operator who continues to operate," said Holm. "Ideally we are looking for operators to move towards one of two outcomes: either get a licence if you are eligible to operate, or stop doing what you're doing and de-list."