Outspoken Vancouver Airbnb host in court over lack of business licence

Outspoken Vancouver Airbnb host in court over lack of business licence
Outspoken Vancouver Airbnb host in court over lack of business licence

اخبار العرب-كندا 24: الأربعاء 1 مايو 2024 12:06 صباحاً

A Vancouver Airbnb host who criticized the city for a tenfold increase in the price of short-term rental licences last September appeared in provincial court Tuesday for failing to pay three alleged violations for not holding a short-term rental business licence.

Patrick Baldwin is one of thousands of property owners in Vancouver who offer rentals in their homes on platforms such as Airbnb under strict city rules, including the need for a license for rentals less than 30 consecutive days.

Court documents show that on Sept. 29, Oct. 1 and Oct. 22 the city claimed to have "reasonable grounds to believe" Baldwin and his wife were offering short-term rentals — those less than 30 consecutive days — without an appropriate business licence.

After not paying the tickets, the couple were issued a court summons three weeks ago.

B.C.'s new short-term rental rules go into effect May 1. Read more about what they are and how they are being received around the province:

Baldwin appeared in court with his wife, but the matter was adjourned until to May 14, after the couple spoke with City of Vancouver prosecutor Claire Armstrong in private about contesting the charges.

Their current listing on Airbnb is being offered for stays 30 days or longer at their primary residence, meaning the couple does not require a short-term rental business licence.

Short-term crackdown

Cities across B.C. are weighing short-term rentals, which provide property owners with income and bolster local economies, against diminishing long-term housing for residents struggling with affordability.

Under Vancouver's bylaws, fines imposed for the infractions can range from $250 to $10,000.

Since speaking out last September, Baldwin says he's been made a scapegoat over the issue on social media sites such as X, formerly known as Twitter.

He declined a CBC News interview request at the courthouse, but commented later by email.

"I feel that we have been demonized," wrote Baldwin. "I strongly believe that people renting a suite within their primary residence are NOT part of the problem — investor Airbnbs are."

Province gets involved

On Wednesday, new provincial legislation comes into effect to limit short-term rentals to a property owner's principal residence in many communities. They apply to properties rented for fewer than 90 consecutive days.

Vancouver has had its own short-term rental rules since 2018. The city rules will remain in place and be bolstered by the provincial ones.

For example, the provincial rules will require platforms to remove listings flagged by municipalities for violations, such as operating without a licence. Previously, Vancouver could ask for this, but de-listing was done by platforms on a voluntary basis.

"I think the city will have a very proactive approach and more tools available from the province to target the bad actors and ensure the proper enforcement with the bylaw," said Coun. Lenny Zhou on Tuesday.

Zhou has been outspoken about compliance from short-term rental platforms over listings without a valid business licence.

Vancouver city councillor Lenny Zhou listens to speakers during a motion to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism at City Hall in Vancouver, British Columbia on Tuesday, November 16, 2022.

Vancouver city councillor Lenny Zhou has been outspoken about the need for stringent enforcement of short-term rental accommodation in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In mid-September, city councillors in Vancouver voted to increase the licence cost for short-term rentals from $109 to $1,000.

Zhou was the one to successfully amend the motion to increase the short-term rental licence fee to $1,000, saying the extra funds could be used to strengthen enforcement.

According to Zhou, data from January to the end of April for both 2023 and 2024, shows only a three per cent reduction in business licences issued between the two time periods, despite the vast difference in price.

"There's almost no impact on the short-term rental operators," he said. "The short-term rental operators, they are still very keen to apply [for] the business licence."

There are currently 4,451 active short-term listings in the city, according to the City of Vancouver website.

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