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Municipality cracking down on Illegal TAs

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Lawyer believes options still exist for renters, B.C. Assessment to get involved

Time has all but run out for a Prince George couple to take their case to the Supreme Court of Canada after the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal against the municipality’s zoning bylaw that prohibits tourist accommodation on RS1 (residential) zoned properties.

And now the municipality is cracking down on other illegal operators.

The appeal court dismissed the case of Miller/Rivera on May 29, after which time the owners of the residence on Clifftop Lane had 30 days to make an appeal to the Supreme Court. They may have made that appeal but the Supreme Court may decide not to hear the matter.

With the Supreme Court and Appeal Court on its side, the municipality is approaching people who have offered "illegal" properties for rent and asking them to sign a letter of consent that they would not rent their homes out in the future.

Jonathan Baker, the lawyer for Millera and Rivera, says the municipality has currently taken action against six of his Whistler clients.

The RMOW is also targeting the people who book or advertise illegal rental properties.

On Monday, June 17 at 10 a.m. the municipality is holding a Show Cause hearing for Allura Direct (www.alluradirect.com), an Internet company that charges property owners an annual fee to list their properties for rent on their site. More than 370 properties are listed, including residences that aren’t zoned for tourist accommodations.

The municipality alleges Allura is supporting and facilitating illegal rentals.

The Show Cause hearing will be held in council chambers. People wishing to speak at the hearing are asked to sign a speakers list at municipal hall prior to 10 a.m. June 17.

But while the municipal bylaws were validated by both the B.C. Supreme Court last year and the B.C. Court of Appeal this year, Baker believes that the Appeal Court essentially left the door open by not specifically addressing any of the new arguments that he presented during the hearing.

"There are different sets of facts that apply to other TA renters that didn’t apply to the Millers. They might decide not to appeal, and we would fight the next one vigorously based on the new information we have," says Baker.

According to Baker, who is counselling renters not to sign the municipal consent forms, there are several possibilities for home owners who wish to rent their properties to tourists on a short-term basis:

• If a home has been rented continuously since 1989, the owner could argue that it is in non-conforming use since before the bylaw existed. As a result these properties could be grandfathered, or exempted from the bylaw because their use had been established before the bylaw existed;

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