The City of Vancouver has yet to bring in new regulations governing short-term rental services like Airbnb.
But it also isn’t cracking down on short-term listings under current law.
Vancouver bylaws prohibit the rental of units for under 30 days, unless they hold hotel or bed and breakfast licences.
And while all listings currently on sites like Airbnb may be against the rules, the city said it’s focusing its energy on targeting those that are causing damage and excessive noise, or so-called “ghost hotels” in which a business operates multiple listings.
That’s prompted complaints from critics, including one Twitter account that has been identifying and reporting Airbnb listings to the city.
The lack of enforcement is a question of priorities, said Kaye Krishna, the city’s general manager of development, buildings and licensing.
She said the city has a limited number of bylaw enforcement staff.
As for current short-term rental hosts who operate illegal listings — Krishna said they likely have little to fear beyond a letter.
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“It’s a formal letter from the city that says we have reports that you’re operating a short-term rental and that’s not currently legal and you should cease and desist,” she said.
However, when asked whether hosts would escape a penalty for defying the order, Krishna said the city has to “prioritize its enforcement.”
“I think that’s your interpretation, I’m not sure that’s how people are perceiving it,” she said. “We’ve also said we need to change the bylaw.”
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Krishna said some hosts have already taken their properties off Airbnb after receiving a letter from the city.
Vancouver’s proposed new regulations would ban short-term rentals of secondary homes and suites, but allow homeowners and renters to list their principal residences.
All hosts would require a licence, which would be displayed on the listing.
The city estimates that the rules would legalize about 70 per cent of current Airbnb listings, while simultaneously freeing up about 1,000 units for long-term tenants.
The City of Vancouver said it hopes to have the new regulations in place by April.