September 11, 2018 by The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER – The City of Vancouver says the number of short-term rentals listed online has dropped by almost half since new rules came into effect requiring operators to have a business licence.
There are 3,742 active Vancouver listings on sites like Airbnb, compared with about 6,600 in April, when the regulations were introduced, the city said Wednesday.
Kaye Krishna, the city’s general manager of development, buildings and licensing, called the early results of the efforts to regulate short-term rentals “very promising.”
“As we move forward with continued public education and increased enforcement we expect to see the short-term rental market stabilize,” Krishna said in a statement.
As of Sept. 1, operators must have a business licence, which costs $49 annually, and must include the licence number in their listing. Operators can only advertise their main residence and must have permission from their landlord or condo board, or they could face fines of up to $1,000 a day on each platform where the rental is advertised.
The city says it has one of the highest initial compliance rates by any major city globally, with 2,640 short-term licences issued, representing about 70 per cent of existing listings.
When the new rules were announced earlier this year, Mayor Gregor Robertson said they were intended to protect and free up rental housing in response to a critically low vacancy rate.
Most of the listings taken off the market were the result of an agreement the city signed with Airbnb. The online platform has deactivated 2,482 Vancouver listings that did not include a business licences.
The agreement also means long-term rental operators can no longer accept rentals of less than 30 days. In addition to the unlicensed listings removed by Airbnb, more than 660 listing were removed or converted to long-term rentals by individuals in response to the new rules, the city said.
Expedia, which is the second-largest platform in Vancouver, has also agreed to add a field where business licence numbers can be added to their online listings on VRBO.
After introducing new rules in April, the city allowed a registration window for operators to comply through Aug. 31, and also began enforcement for unsafe dwellings and commercial operations that would clearly not meet the new regulations.
It has investigated more than 2,650 listings and says that since Sept. 1, 294 new addresses have been flagged for non-compliance and are subject to enforcement.
“The short-term rental program will continue to strengthen as the city expands its data sources and ongoing dialogue with multiple partners,” the city said in a statement.
Residents are encouraged to continue to report suspected illegal short-term rentals.
Jens von Bergmann, principal at MountainMath Software and Analytics, said Airbnb’s agreement to share data with the city such as the address and business licence for a listing represents a new model for Canada.
But there are still some operators bending the rules on the platform, based his own analysis of the data, von Bergmann said.
In one case, a business licence has been used for multiple properties, he said. In another, an operator appears to falsely present their listing as a hotel or other commercial enterprise that would be exempt from this type of business licence.
But Bergmann said he sees the city’s initial results as positive.
“It looks encouraging. I think the real test is, will those listings that are right now clearly non-compliant disappear?”
“The other test will be how many fines are actually levied.”
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