Today’s Poll

Short-term rental regulations opened for review by city

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
July 3rd, 2018

New proposed changes to the short-term rental regulations are contrary to what a city-sponsored public survey says as a review of its rules begins, and the discrepancy irked one councilor.

Despite survey results which note that 40 per cent of public respondents thought that the regulations regarding short-term rentals should be more restrictive, changes being proposed include lowering costs of the guest suite licence fee from $800 to $500, among others.

Although the proposed changes were revealed in a committee-of-the-whole meeting on Monday — and, as a result, were not up for debate — Coun. Michael Dailly questioned if there was not an impression that council wanted to maintain long-term rentals, which is why the city required short-term rental landlords to have the rental as their primary residence.

“What we were very clear on was not having people come in and make a business of (short-term rentals) and buying properties to create (short-term rentals) out of properties that could instead be used for long-term rental or as a home to raise a family in, because that could change the nature of a community,” he said.

Dailly said it was okay to make the proposals for change, but he wanted those decisions based on clear direction from council about what it is they were trying to create, not a grey area with a hybrid of regulations.

“I think council is a little confused where we are on that and we need to be clear that long-term rental is the priority, and (short-term rental) people need to have the freedom of choice and have a safe place and that has to be safe for their guests,” he said.

“But (short-term rental) is not something we are encouraging. In fact, we are probably encouraging the other.”

He asked for that to be put into the policy.

Two surveys on short-term rental regulations in Nelson were online from March 8 until April 8 and the licence holders’ survey was sent individually to each short-term rental licence holder. Over half of the licence holders replied — 27 out of 52 — while 108 public survey responses were received, of which 91 per cent claimed that they live in the city.

Two thirds (67 per cent) of the licence holders responded that they were satisfied, very satisfied, or indifferent about the current regulations.

Those numbers were not reflected in the public survey, where over 40 per cent of people responding thought that the regulations should be more restrictive, while only 28 per cent claimed to be satisfied.

In August 2016, city council passed a resolution committing to a review of the short-term rental regulations by June 2018, with the regulations having been in effect since January 2017.

Despite the survey results, the city does appear to be on the right track. Lots of media attention has come to the city over what it has done in regard to short-term rentals, with numerous stories being written and the international organization, Host Compliance, considers the city to have one of the most multi-faceted regulatory programs in North America, said city planner Alex Thumm.

There is a lot of money to be made in short-term rentals, he admitted. If a landlord rented every single day in the four-month time slot they could make as much money in that time as a full-year, long-term rental.

“At the same time, I don’t see much evidence that people have consistent guest stays,” he said. “From what we have been hearing it has been quite a bit slower this year.”

There are currently 61 annual short-term rental licences and one summer licence, including pending applications. The cap for annual licences is 110.

“So quite a ways short of the cap,” said Thumm. “We were looking at a higher end estimate of where things were going on.”

The online listings — on nine sites — included rural rentals, commercial, inactive listings and multiple listings.

Twenty warning letters were sent out in 2017 and most came into compliance right away; 18 tickets in total were issued and 12 were cancelled because the owners came into compliance right away.

Licences are up this year at 62, and only six warning letters have been sent, with two tickets issued.

“It has been a definite improvement this year over last because most people are aware of the regulations,” he said.

Changes proposed by staff included removing the $30 inspection fee, the $500 deposit requirement and lowering the guest suite licence fee from $800 to $500.

On secondary suites used for short-term rentals it is recommended that a utility surcharge be applied instead of withholding the 75 per cent utility discount — net savings for the applicant and improved administrative efficiency

As well, guest homes should not be advertised for more than 182 days per year, and it is proposed that a building official could waive inspection requirement if the property was recently inspected.

Other suggestions include clarifying that no licence be issued if there were outstanding fines, allowing up to two 31-day licences per year (current maximum is one) and reserving the right to request booking records directly from listing platforms.

The potential changes for consideration include replacing summer-only licences with four-month licences, creating criteria for staff discretion on waiving certain requirements in unique cases and clarifying “guest room” definition as not only bedroom but also living room.

Toeing the line

The objectives of the regulations were to:

  • ensure a level playing field;
  • ensure safe accommodations; and
  • meet local housing needs.

Average cost breakdown

  • $135 – base business licence fee
  • $200 – additional staff time and overhead (application review, GIS, communication)
  • $100 – building inspection (divided by three years)
  • $300 – compliance monitoring costs (Host Compliance and staff time)

— Source: City of Nelson



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