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Nightly rentals will require business licenses

Tourist Accommodation Review recommendations endorsed

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After spending much of the last year conducting a review of tourist accommodation offerings, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is ready to act on some staff recommendations.

In short, the RMOW will now require short-term rentals to have a business license and will levy fines against those who don't comply. The recommendations also clarify zoning and covenant rules, reinforce rules around Phase 2 properties and allow hotels to operate under a single rental arrangement.

Anyone marketing or renting a unit in a residentially zoned neighbourhood won't get a business licence.

Council endorsed the recommendations at its regular meeting May 23, and gave initial readings to three related bylaws — one of which, when passed, will require short-term rental operators to obtain a business license.

The hope is that the changes will also protect the hotel accommodation base moving forward, said director of planning Mike Kirkegaard in a media briefing ahead of the council meeting.

"That's really fundamental to our visitation, and fundamental to our local economy," Kirkegaard said. "It's key to have those beds for visitors."

The majority of short-term rentals in Whistler are operating legally.

But with the new bylaw, anyone who is now marketing or renting a unit for short-term rental (aside from hotels and property-management companies) will require a business license.

"These illegal rentals undermine neighbourhood character, they undermine the existing properly zoned tourist accommodation bed base, they affect housing supply availability for residential purposes and there is a growing concern given the platforms that are available and the lucrative illegal activity," Kirkegaard said.

An accompanying amendment to the municipal ticketing system bylaw will make operating a short-term rental without a business license a ticketable offense.

A third bylaw amending zoning for Hotel and Phase 2 accommodations seeks to shore up existing policy.

One concern right now is individual unit owners looking to operate outside of the common rental pool or management arrangements of their stratas. The amendment supports the RMOW's position that such properties are listed under a single, integrated rental pool.

"I wouldn't call it a policy change — I think it's kind of reinforcing policy," Kirkegaard said.

"I think that what we would highlight is that we're supporting all units working together within a property, and that we are reinforcing that."

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the review was necessary to help the RMOW understand what was going on in the housing market.

"This report has gone a long way towards that: (showing that) the division between warm and cold beds is working nicely — we don't need to tinker with that — (but) there are things that we can do to ensure that those properties carry on being used for what they've been zoned for," she said.

"And then the illegal nightly rental aspect of it has come through loud and clear in this report as well, and so by taking some of the steps through the business regulations we're going to be able to address that."

Though the RMOW filed a notice of civil claim against a homeowner renting on Airbnb last January, no similar actions have been taken since.

"Bylaw is actively maintaining their record of illegal rentals that are brought to their attention through complaints, and I think they've been effective in working with those property owners in large part," Kirkegaard said.

The full council report, including the complete TAR and related bylaws can be found in the May 23 council package: www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/council/meeting-agendas-and-minutes.

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