May 19, 2017 2:14 pm
Updated: July 12, 2017 12:06 pm

City of Vancouver fines, seeks prosecution against illegal hotels

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The City of Vancouver is taking action against operators of illegal hotels, after a CKNW investigation revealed many of those operators have been flouting city rules.

This latest development comes almost two months after CKNW revealed developer Onni’s “Level Furnished Living” was operating like a hotel, even though it didn’t have the proper zoning or business license for its Seymour property.

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At the time the story broke, the City said it was working with Onni.

Now, it’s been revealed $24,000 in fines have been paid, and Level will not offer any more short-term rentals.

READ MORE: Developer under fire for years of luxury short-term rentals in Vancouver without hotel license

Director of Properties, Licensing and Inspection with the City of Vancouver Kathryn Holm says the fines only cover 6 months of bylaw violations, though the properties have been operating for longer.

“It’s the statute of evidence that constrained us there. But because we had sufficient evidence for six months, there was the ability to apply fines for the last six months of operation.”

Holm says two other properties under investigation by CKNW, run by Vancouver Extended Stay at 1288 West Georgia and 1200 Alberni, have now been referred to prosecution.

Additionally, the property Carmana Plaza, belonging to the Peterson development group, has also been referred to prosecution.

“Our legal department will package all of that information together and determine what next steps, but the intent is to prosecute against those who have inappropriately been continuing to operate short-term rentals and who have not been complying with our bylaws,” Holm says.

READ MORE: Developer skirting short-term rental rules a repeat offender: City of Vancouver

She says while both situations may seem similar, there is a variety of aspects the city needs to consider.

“Each circumstance, we’re finding, is quite unique, and have different nuances. So, those differences we’re certainly working through with our legal department, to determine how we best approach.”

Carmana Plaza has been operating as a hotel for over a decade and has had the proper zoning for about a year, but no business license.

In a release, the city says Carmana Plaza has agreed not to accept new short-term rental bookings, but isn’t cancelling the ones it already has.

Protecting residents

Short-term rentals have long been blamed for helping drive up rents in Vancouver, exacerbating the city’s housing affordability crisis.

Holm says it’s one reason the city is going after those who operate those types of rentals, whether it’s large-scale operators revealed in CKNW’s investigation, or individual owners putting up condos and basement suites on Airbnb.

“The city is really trying to protect the long-term rental stock for residents, and that continues to be the primary objective.”

READ MORE: Another luxury-building operating short-term rentals without proper permits in Vancouver

The city says it’s in the process of coming up with a new short-term rental framework.

That move would see some short-term rentals legalized, like those who have a spare room in a suite.

It would also give the city more tools to go after companies and individuals who continue to offer short-term rentals from condos and suites, without a hotel license.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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