B.C. Bringing in New Short-Term Rental Rules

Legislation surrounding Airbnbs and other short-term rentals in B.C. is changing fast. Here’s what you need to know.

By Brett Surbey | 4 minute read

Nov 23

Short-term rentals have recently come under fire from the B.C. government, though each municipality has its own new regulations.

Airbnb, Vrbo, secondary suites, and bed & breakfasts all sound like a dream opportunity for investment property purchasers —low maintenance, solid sources of income. For some Airbnbs, you don’t even need to be there in person. 

Though the short-term rental market has bloomed considerably in B.C.—the government notes 16,000 properties are being used solely for rental purposes for most of the year — it has come at a cost: less long-term rental options during a housing crisis. The B.C. government has decided that this cost no longer outweighs the benefits.

“Though the short-term rental market has bloomed considerably in B.C., it has come at a cost: less long-term rental options during a housing crisis.”

B.C. Government Bringing Changes 

“Anyone who’s looking for an affordable place to live knows how hard it is, and short-term rentals are making it even more challenging,” said Premier David Eby, in a news release from the provincial government on new legislative changes coming into effect regarding short-term rentals. 


The government’s latest bill to receive royal assent was the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act on October 26, 2023, which aims to bring more long-term housing solutions to those in the west. Specifically, the act has three main prongs: 


  • equip local municipalities with stronger enforcement tools;
  • shift short-term rental properties to the long-term market; and
  • bring about provincial oversight for short-term rentals. 

“The expectation is that the market is going to be completely flooded with real estate come spring, which is going to drive prices down,” says Lisa Hilton, a REALTOR® with Whistler Real Estate Company.


This shift from short-term properties to long-term ones is a major focus of the new principal residence requirement, effective May 2024. This regulation requires short-term rental properties to be limited to the principal residence of the owner, and one secondary suite or carriage home. Further, while there are a number of areas that will be exempted from this requirement — such as Whistler, Tofino, and other resort municipalities — additional regulations may be on the horizon for them as well. 


The provincial government is also upping their enforcement measures for properties that run offside a region’s bylaws — fines are now $50,000 rather than $2,000.


While these overhauls are not small, short-term rental owners and prospective buyers shouldn’t necessarily be worried that short-term rentals will be permanently done with, says Hilton. “[Airbnb’s] have managed to get through lots of loopholes that none of the municipalities or governments had anything in place to fight. And, the demand is really high. So they’re not going to completely wipe it out. But they’re going to put in more rules so that they can manage the bad ones,” Hilton tells Wahi.


What options do investment buyers have? 

Hilton thinks that investment buyers always have options — depending on what their needs are. She notes that people can be quick to assume that their Airbnb or secondary suite is fine the way it is, using the people cutting corners around them as a benchmark. But with this new legislation, they need to be in touch with what’s coming their way. “I think [many people] don’t know because they’ve never looked into it. And they just assume [everything is fine] until they get a knock on the door or a letter in the mail. saying, ‘You are contravening the bylaws.’”

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Individuals looking to become landlords in the province have to be prepared to face some of the most stringent rental rules across the nation, Hilton explains. This is due, in part, to bad actors in the Vancouver region, where tenants were treated unfairly. This has resulted in a bigger focus on tenant rights


In step with these current changes, rental owners will need to dot all their “i’s” and cross their “t’s.” This could mean making sure your property has two entrances, Hilton says. It doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated — start with small steps. 


In some instances, selling the property to get some liquidity isn’t a bad move either, Hilton suggests, especially with other fixed-income investment options through banks being as lucrative as they are currently.


Brett Surbey

Wahi Writer

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