May 20, 2024
Property

B.C. property owners file court challenge to limits on short-term rentals


A group of 290 short-term rental owners are seeking a judicial review of restrictions on short-term rentals, like Airbnb, set to take effect in several B.C. municipalities on May 1. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A group of 290 short-term rental owners are seeking a judicial review of restrictions on short-term rentals, like Airbnb, set to take effect in several B.C. municipalities on May 1. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press – image credit)

A group of nearly 300 British Columbia property owners are taking the province and City of Victoria to court over new provincial limits on short-term rentals, less than three weeks before they are set to take effect.

The petition, filed in the Supreme Court of B.C. on Wednesday, is challenging legislation that that will limit short-term rentals, such as those offered on Airbnb, to within a host’s home, or a basement suite or laneway home on the property where they reside.

Victoria is one of several cities facing a May 1 start date for the new rules.

The changes aim to increase the availability of long-term rental housing in the province’s tight rental markets, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said when they were first announced in October.

Three petitioners — West Coast Association for Property Rights (WCAPR), Amala Vacation Rental Solutions and its CEO Angela Mason — argue the rules aren’t legal and will result in significant financial losses for short-term rental owners, according to the claim.

Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon looks on during an announcement about new legislation that will return short-term rentals to long-term homes for people during a press conference in the rotunda at the legislature Victoria, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon looks on during an announcement about new legislation that will return short-term rentals to long-term homes for people during a press conference in the rotunda at the legislature Victoria, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.

Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon looks on during an announcement about new legislation that will return short-term rentals to long-term homes for people during a press conference in the rotunda at the legislature Victoria, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.

Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon said new rules announced by the province in October are meant to return housing to longer-term tenants who are struggling to find appropriate and affordable places to live. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

They are seeking a judicial review to determine whether the province had the authority to pass the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act (STRAA) and, if so, whether it was fair and lawful.

“We believe the provincial government has overstepped its legal authority,” said Orion Rodgers, executive director of the WCAPR, which was formed shortly after the restrictions were announced.

The legislation, “in effect, will require an owner of private land to subsidize long-term rental, or give up all revenue,” reads the petition.

The petitioners also seek an injunction to delay the legislation coming into force until their case is heard, and compensation for any financial losses caused by the rule change.

“If it creates tangible losses for our constituents then compensation should be paid,” said Rodgers, who said WCAPR has 290 members who own short-term rental properties across the province.

“This legislation is a problem because it actually harms a very small number of legal operators, licensed operators that have been owners and operating within the law for years.”

Mason’s company, Amala Vacation Rental Solutions, offers short-term rental management services and has already been affected before the new rules have taken force, according to the petition.

“As a result of the enactment of the STRAA, the number of short-term accommodation units being managed dropped from 90 to 65,” said the claim, noting that the business has laid off more than half of its previous 32 employees and cut seven contractors since October.

Neither the province nor the City of Victoria has filed a response to the petition.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Housing said the rules will take effect “as planned” on May 1.

“We’re taking action to reign in short-term rentals and turn more units back into homes for people,” he wrote.

“As this is a matter before the courts, the ministry is unable to comment on this specific situation.”

A spokesperson for the City of Victoria said its lawyers are reviewing the petition “and the City will respond in accordance with the rules of court,” in a Friday email.

A court date has not yet been set, according to Rodgers.



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