Stratas and New Legislation About Short-Term Rentals in BC

On October 26, 2023, the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act was passed in the BC legislature and received Royal Assent the same day (part of Bill 35-2023). This new Act comes into effect on May 1, 2024. It places rules on short-term rentals being offered to the public.

The legislation focuses on three key areas:

    • increasing fines and strengthening tools for local governments
    • returning more short-term rentals to long-term homes, and
    • establishing provincial rules and enforcement

What is short-term rental accommodation?

The terminology “short-term rentals” and “long-term rentals” causes a lot of confusion. Legally these can be two very different things. For clarity we’ll refer to “short-term rentals” as “short-term accommodations” or “licence for use” and “long-term rentals” as “tenancies”. A short-term accommodation involves a licence for use. People staying in the home or strata lot are guests such as tourists. A licence for use doesn’t form a tenancy under the Residential Tenancy Act. Typically, short-term accommodations are advertised and booked on online platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO, Expedia, and FlipKey. It’s also common to see them advertised on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, or found in classified ads in newspapers.

Can strata bylaws ban or restrict short-term accommodations?

Yes. The Strata Property Act allows strata corporations to pass bylaws that ban or restrict the use of residential strata lots for short-term accommodation. The fines can be significantly higher than the $200 maximum fine allowed for other bylaw contraventions. Under Strata Property Regulation 7.1, in the case of a bylaw that prohibits or limits use of all or part of a residential strata lot for remuneration as vacation, travel or temporary accommodation, the maximum amount that a strata corporation may set out in its bylaws as a fine is $1,000 for each contravention of the bylaw.

It’s recommended to have a lawyer who is familiar with case law draft these bylaws to ensure they have the intended effect. In some cases, the BC Supreme Court has found certain bylaws unenforceable due to poor wording.

What are some of the details in the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act?

The Act says that short-term rental accommodations in BC may be offered only in the “principal residence” of a property host. This requirement only applies to residences in certain communities such as those with a population of more than 10,000 people or are adjacent to larger communities. See the list of communities.

A “principal residence” means the residence in which an individual resides for a longer period of time in a calendar year than any other place.

A “property host” means a person who is legally entitled to possession of a property where short-term rental accommodation services are provided, and who has responsibility for arranging for the short-term rental offer.

“Short-term rental accommodation service” means the service of accommodation in the property of a property host, in exchange for a fee, that is provided to members of the public for a period of time of less than 90 consecutive days or another prescribed period, if any.”

Example 1: A person owns 3 strata lots in Sidney and Saanich. They can use part of their primary residence (such as a spare bedroom in a condo or basement suite in a townhouse) for short-term accommodations year-round, or all of the residence when they are out of town for work or on a vacation (as long as they live in this residence for a longer period of time in a calendar year than any other place).) They cannot use the other 2 strata lots for short-term accommodations. They could rent the 2 strata lots to tenants (a tenancy under the Residential Tenancy Act), or as short-term rentals of 90 or more days (if permitted by their municipality).

Example 2: A person owns 3 strata lots, one in Victoria and 2 in the District of Ucluelet. They can live in the strata lot in Victoria as their primary residence. Since Ucluelet is a “Resort Municipality”, it is exempt from the Act and the owners can use the 2 lots in Ucluelet for short-term accommodations (if permitted by the District of Ucluelet). See the list of 14 Resort Municipalities.

How does the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act affect strata corporations and strata owners?

Many details, such as the amount of the fines that the Province can charge to hosts and platforms, are not in the Act itself and will be written into Regulations. We expect Regulations to be ready by early 2024.

STRAA Section 3 says “The Act does not apply to hotels, motels and any other accommodation service providers that may be prescribed for the purposes of this section.” Based on comments from the Minister of Housing, it is anticipated that the Regulations will clarify (prescribe) that “strata hotels” qualify for the hotel exemption.

Here’s a summary of what we know so far:

  • Strata corporations are still permitted to have bylaws that ban or restrict the use of residential strata lots for short-term accommodations.
  • These bylaws are still permitted to include a fine of up to $1,000 for each contravention.
  • As of May 1, 2024 if the “principal resident requirement” applies to your community:
    • The owner of the strata lot must live in their strata lot at least some of the year (their principal residence).
    • If a landlord permits it, their tenant can be a property host. In that case, the tenant must live in the strata lot at least some of the year (their principal residence).
  • Visit the links below to learn more:
    • Hosts will be required to register in a short-term rental registry to be launched by the Province in late 2024.
    • Hosts will be required to include their provincial registration number on their listing. They will also have to include their business license number, if a business license is required by their local government.
    • Platforms will be required to validate registration numbers on host listings against the Province’s registry data.
    • Platforms will be required to share information about short-term listings with the Province.

Lawyers across the province will no doubt be carefully checking the wording of the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act to determine how it aligns with strata case law and the current wording of bylaws they have written for their strata corporation clients.

BC Government News Release October 16, 2023
See Bill 35 – 2023
Check the list of communities where the “principal residence” requirement applies.
Visit the BC Strata Housing website page Strata short-term rental bylaws

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