With all the new changes around short-term vacation rentals – also known as STVRs in the industry – figuring out what’s permitted and what’s not can be confusing. But that’s just the beginning. Once you have established that vacation rentals are permitted on your property, there are still plenty of additional steps to complete before you can operate.
Firstly, you should be aware of what comprises a short-term vacation rental. STVRs are defined as any room or unit that is rented for 29 days or less. While the rules are similar throughout the region, specific processes can vary somewhat from city to city. For clarity, we’ll use Kelowna, the largest city in the area, as an example.
Here is everything you need to know about short-term vacation rentals — how to find out if your zone is approved, what you need to operate, and what the repercussions are if you don’t follow the right steps in Kelowna.
Are you zoned for a vacation rental?
Throughout the region, cities divide sections into zones. Each zone has their own bylaws and restrictions, which naturally also include short-term vacation rentals. Your zoning bylaws are your best source for figuring out if you can have a vacation rental on your property and how you can start the process.
The City of Kelowna has determined which zones are granted short-term rental status and which ones are not. Zones are categorized into groups and those groups will have to meet certain requirements. Search for your address to determine what zone your property is in.
If you already know which zone you’re in, check out if you’re allowed to operate a short-term vacation rental on your property.
Do you need a business licence to operate a short-term vacation rental property?
Okay, you have found your zone and you’re either disappointed, excited, or boxing up your possessions to move. But before you make any big decisions, there is still one piece of red tape to cover. According to the Real Estate Council of British Columbia, STVRs fall within the definition of operating a travel service. As such, any person engaging in providing accommodation services or managing such a trade is therefore mandated to have a licence to do so.
The licence must be renewed annually and costs about $345 if the rental is in your principal residence, and $750 in a non-principal residence.
To get your licence, you must complete a few different forms. The Business Licence Application Form and some other documents including a Self-Evaluation Fire and Safety Form, Good Neighbour Agreement Form, Parking Plan, Owner Consent Form and possibly a couple others. Once completed, you will receive your business licence and you can begin marketing and operating your property as a short-term vacation rental.
Housing requirements for short-term rentals
Depending on your zone, certain home requirements need to be met to successfully complete the forms for your licence. For certain zones, rural, single and two-unit residential properties, the maximum number of bedrooms that you can rent is three with only two adults allowed per bedroom.
You are only allowed one booking at a time and must provide parking spaces for your guests — one space for every two bedrooms. This means that if you rent three bedrooms, you will need to provide two parking spaces.
Multi-unit residential and commercial zones are essentially the same, with the exception that you can only rent out two bedrooms. Most zones only allow STVRs if operated out of the owner’s principal residence as well, but there are a few exceptions.
For example, the RM6 properties along Sunset Drive in Kelowna do not require the short-term rental to be in the owners’ principal residence. Triple check your zoning bylaws to find out if you can only operate a short-term vacation rental if the property is your principal residence.
Safety requirements for short-term rentals
It’s very important to make sure that your home is safe for your guests. This includes having a safety evacuation plan in all bedrooms and exits, up-to-date smoke alarms throughout the property, a fire extinguisher on each floor, carbon monoxide detectors, and proper bedroom windows. Guests must also have contact information for someone who is available 24/7 in case of emergencies.
Additionally, a fire safety plan must be accessible for your guests with the owner’s name, address of the rental, emergency contact, a place to meet up, and where the fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and window exits are in the home.
Follow the right steps
Executing all specified requirements is your best chance of ensuring your business licence gets granted without encumbrance. Bear in mind, when you begin operating your short-term vacation rental, your business licence number must be in your listings. Be sure to check out the full guide for the requirements to receive your STVR business licence in Kelowna.
For other cities, determine the bylaws surrounding your zone and the steps needed to begin owning and operating your short-term vacation rental. Following all of the procedures and form requirements will ensure that your short-term rental will be up and running in no time.
Failing to complete all these required steps can jeopardize your business, as well as make you vulnerable to steep fines per offence, per day. That means that if you have started a vacation rental without a license, you could be subject to multiple daily fines. It’s much easier, and financially economical, to follow the steps!
If you’re interested in finding a property that allows short-term rentals, consider working with a REALTOR®. They are experts at navigating the market and can even help you with the forms and requirements that you need to get your short-term rental up and running safely.