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British Columbia’s New Short-Term Rental Rules

By Nathan Guss|5 min|December 2023

Seeking more about British Columbia’s new rules for short-term rentals? Read on for a quick breakdown.

In October 2023, British Columbia’s legislature passed the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act, which will transform the short-term rental sector. Property owners running an STR need to familiarize themselves with these more stringent new rules to avoid heavy fines. Here is an overview of the changes.

Why was the legislation passed?

British Columbia’s new short-term rental regulations aim to alleviate the province’s housing shortage, characterized by skyrocketing real estate values and rents. Some experts, including researchers at McGill University, contend that tourist-oriented rental platforms have shifted a significant number of homes from long-term residents to temporary guests and are therefore contributing to the housing crisis. The rules are designed to bring a significant number of units from short-term rental use into long-term housing and rental for B.C. residents.

How does British Columbia define a short-term rental?

In British Columbia, a short-term rental is defined as accommodation offered to the public for less than 90 consecutive days in exchange for payment.

What are the new rules for STRs?

Primary Residence Requirement

The recently passed Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act imposes a principal residence requirement. This rule will have a major impact on the sector, pushing many STR operators to sell their properties or put them into the long-term rental market. Effective as of May 1 in municipalities with over 10,000 residents and adjacent communities, STR operators will only be able to offer their principal residence for short-term rentals, plus one secondary suite or accessory dwelling unit on the same property. You can see the province’s website for the list of communities subject to this requirement. Keep in mind that communities with enough housing vacancies may be able to opt out, so stay tuned in to what’s happening in your town.

The province defines a principal residence as a home where an individual lives longer than anywhere else during the year. It will use its databases on principal residences, initially created for the vacancy tax policy, to ensure compliance.

Mandatory Registration

The act establishes a short-term rental registry. By late 2024, STR operators will be required to register and display a provincial registration number on their listings along with, where required, their business licence number. Additionally, platforms will be responsible for validating these registration numbers and won’t be allowed to post listings without them.

Stricter Enforcement and Steeper Penalties

To ensure operators follow the new short-term rental rules, British Columbia will set up a provincial compliance and enforcement unit. This enforcement team will track compliance, issue orders and administer penalties for violations. Increased penalties are already in effect. Notably, the maximum fine for bylaw offences under the Offence Act in regional districts has increased significantly from $2,000 to $50,000. Similarly, the maximum municipal ticketing fine has risen. Cities can now charge fines of up to $3,000 daily for an infraction—a substantial increase from the previous $1,000 limit. This escalation in fines applies across municipalities, regional districts and the Islands Trust.

Exemptions from the New Rules

The new STR regulations in British Columbia fully exempt certain areas and property types. This includes Reserve lands, Nisga’a Lands, treaty lands of a treaty First Nation (unless they opt into the legislation), hotels and motels. Future regulations will also make exceptions for specific properties, such as timeshares and fishing lodges.

The principal residence requirement doesn’t apply to smaller municipalities and regional district electoral areas with populations under 10,000. That said, smaller towns can choose to opt in, so stay abreast of the latest developments in your municipality. These areas, however, are still subject to other regulations, such as the mandatory registration for STR operators.

Municipal Regulations

Keep in mind that municipalities retain the right to impose stricter regulations than those put in place by the new regulations. Check with your local government for its latest rules.

Where to go for more information?

If you need further information or have any questions, you can get in touch with the Government of British Columbia.

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