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Vancouver Airbnb business licences available starting Thursday
Airbnb listings are seen in Vancouver.
Property owners who choose to rent their spaces on short-term listings websites can apply online for the business licences now required in Vancouver starting Thursday, the city says.
City councillors voted to legalize listings posted on sites including Airbnb in the fall of last year, hoping that imposing regulations on what were then illegal suites would encourage owners to look for long-term renters instead.
The city with a near-zero vacancy rate hosts approximately 6,600 illegal short-term rentals, local officials estimate.
Under the rules first announced in November and agreed to by Airbnb earlier this month, the city estimates about 1,000 current Airbnb listings will not be eligible for a licence.
With the goal of freeing up rentals for those who live in the city in mind, property owners will only be allowed to rent out a spaces used as primary residences, where the operators reside more than 180 days a year and receive mail.
For example, a homeowner can rent out their home while on vacation, or can rent out a bedroom while they're living in the home, but cannot rent out an unoccupied residence or separate basement suite.
Secondary suites or investment properties can only be rented short-term if leased to a long-term tenant, and both tenant and owner approve.
The city has posted a video and eligibility quiz on its website to help owners and tenants determine whether their listing is legal.
"The City of Vancouver is taking a balanced approach to regulating short-term rentals that prioritizes housing as homes first and commodity second, while also recognizing that many residents depend on that extra income to help make ends meet," Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement Wednesday.
Owners of listings that are permitted under the city's guideline will be required to purchase a licence. They'll be asked to pay a one-time administrative fee of $56, then an annual prorated licence fee, which is $49 this year.
New hosts will now need to prove to Airbnb that they have purchased the licence, while existing hosts will have until Aug. 31 to acquire a licence.
Operators will have to agree to meet health, safety and "good neighbour" requirements, the city said, and will have to consent to regular audits and inspections.
Anyone caught breaking the rules will be subject to a fine of $1,000 a day and could face further legal action. Four new city hires will be responsible for tracking down illegal listings, and Airbnb has promised to hand over a list of all Vancouver licences each quarter.
But earlier this month, CTV News saw some were already looking for ways around the law. An ad posted on Craigslist, which has since been removed, offered a discount on rent for tenants willing to lie to the city.
Anyone who suspects an illegal short-term rental can call 311 while in the City of Vancouver, or report it through the VanConnect app.
In February, the province announced it too was working on regulating Airbnb listings. Finance Minister Carole James said the company would be required to collect provincial sales and local tourism taxes through its online platform.
James estimated there are approximately 18,500 Airbnb listings in operation in B.C., which would have brought in about $18 million in sales taxes had the legislation been in place in 2017.
Of the taxes collected, James said the majority will go toward provincial affordable housing initiatives, while the amount collected in tourism tax will go to local governments.