Crackdown coming for illegal Airbnb short-term rentals in BC

The BC government is poised to take a stand against short-term rentals in the province in just a few weeks after it blamed popular sites like Airbnb and Vrbo for taking up much-needed housing during an ongoing supply crisis.

As of May 1, the vacation rental companies will have to remove listings that the province finds to be thwarting the rules, or else face fines of up to $10,000 or even an injunction from the province.

The rules state that hosts can only operate and rent to short-term vacationers if the home is their principal residence. Only a few resort-focused communities, including Whistler, are exempt. Contraventions of the new rules could lead to hefty $5,000-a-day fines for hosts.

Premier David Eby says this is a vital step to make housing affordable for British Columbians.

Ravi Kahlon, the housing minister, said it’s important to ask your host to see if they are compliant with the new rules.

“The responsibility to comply with the rules falls to the host and the rental platform,” he said.

If hosts and the platform are found to be breaking the restrictions, they will receive a notice of non-compliance and be required to remove the listing. Platforms will also have to share the data with the province regularly.

“Guests will not face any fines,” Kahlon added.

Many local governments already have restrictions in place, like Vancouver, but Kahlon said this adds another layer for compliance.

Critics of the plan have condemned the province over the restrictions, saying that they come ahead of the busy summer season and that hosts and guests are left scrambling as they were only announced a few months before they were set to take effect.

The Property Rights Association of BC has already voiced its concern that the new restrictions will make it harder for people to find places to stay, hampering the tourism industry.

Many homeowners also insist that companies like Airbnb are crucial to their financial livelihood and help offset costs like high mortgage rates, property taxes, or other financial pressures. Hundreds of property owners in Victoria are taking their fight to court to challenge the legislation.

Despite pushback from residents, some 17 communities will opt into the crackdown, which will start in November. 

The Vancouver Island tourism hub off Tofino was the first to opt in, as the area was exempt from the rules, but the council decided to go against many of its residents and vote to restrict short-term rentals.

According to the province, short-term rentals reduce the number of housing options for people who live and work in BC. As of October, there were about 28,000 short-term rental listings across BC, up 20% from 2022. The province estimates that 40% to 50% of the listings are non-compliant overall.

Eby said they’ve seen as many as 19,000 detached homes listed on these platforms, and if they can get even half of these units back on the market, it would make a difference.

“It’s already having an impact, but we suspect that after May 1… we will start to see a bigger impact,” he said.

Airbnb has said it has “no meaningful impact on the housing crisis.”

“The BC government’s legislation will not alleviate the province’s housing concerns, instead it will make travel more unaffordable for millions of residents who travel within BC, reduce tourism spending in communities where Airbnb hosts are often the only providers of local accommodations and take money out of the pockets of British Columbians during an affordability crisis,” the company told Daily Hive in October.

To read more on the rules for hosts, head here. 

With files from Ryan Hook, Megan Devlin, Kenneth Chan, and Amir Ali