The Town of Oliver is putting “vacation rentals” under the microscope as it prepares to regulate these uses in a neighbourhood near you.
Council recently discussed the issue, including a staff recommendation for public consultation on allowing vacation rentals as permitted uses in low-density residential zones.
In a report by contract planner Chris Garrish, it was stated these rentals are an important form of tourist accommodation in many communities, and allow homeowners to generate revenue. But they are also the subject of “concerns and complaints,” he pointed out.
These include: changing the character of the neighbourhood; increasing the cost of housing; contributing to a reduction in long-term rentals; creating conflicts via noise and parking congestion; and creating unsightliness and fire hazards.
The report noted the big challenge is striking an appropriate balance between regulation and enforcement. But it was noted that vacation rentals are already occurring within the Town and appear to be more prevalent than traditional B&Bs.
• Read more: Vacation rentals under scrutiny by RDOS board
Of the 24 properties identified as potentially comprising a vacation rental, nearly 96 per cent were in a zone that only permits single detached dwellings as the principal dwelling unit.
Council discussed two options. One is to prohibit vacation rentals in all zones other than the RC (resort commercial) Zone. (All existing vacation rentals must cease via enforcement action.)
The other option is to permit these rentals in certain residential zones, requiring an amendment to the Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw. New regulations could include limiting the number of patrons and rooms per rental site.
Under the Official Community Plan, home occupations are supported in residential areas.
The report indicated that only 10 per cent of vacation rental operators will voluntarily comply with a licensing scheme. But that figure increases to 90 per cent if operators believe they will be caught through enforcement action.
Garrish said B&Bs are structured to require property owners to be present in the dwelling unit, while vacation rentals do not.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said council has already allowed vacation rentals in the community.
• Read more: Town to amend bylaw to include short-term rental provisions
Garrish said if council decides not to permit them, those existing licences would lapse and the operations would no longer be allowed.
Schwartzenberger said there are two types of vacation rentals, one where the owner stays there, and one where the owner doesn’t.
“I’m more in favour of the first kind where there is somebody there.”
Councillor Aimee Grice said her concern on vacation rentals is the impact on affordable housing and rental vacancies in general. She cited cases where homes are rented out for six months during the summer and sit vacant for the rest of the year.
“Using up these secondary suites or carriage homes which could be a rental for somebody else, I think is a concern.”
Mayor Martin Johansen said a lot of municipalities are struggling with this issue, but whatever council does there should be some policy or bylaw in place.
“We need to hold people accountable. I can think in my own neighbourhood, it wouldn’t be the best if somebody rented a house there, brought their truck and parked a boat out in front of it and took up the street.”
Councillor Dave Mattes wondered if you had a tenant in a carriage house, could the tenant rent out that accommodation?
Mattes said if you have a business licence you would have funds for enforcement for problems such as noisy tenants.
Garrish said the main issue municipalities are faced with is compliance, noting they have very few operators who come in to formalize the use of their rentals.
“In the absence of an active enforcement program, you’re probably only going to get 10 per cent compliance.”
He noted that some issues include building additions and extensions without permits and sufficient parking spaces.
“Take this with a grain of salt, but we’ve had some people say that we should be mandating a minimum stay of a week because you don’t get the weekend partiers coming.”
Mattes said Penticton and Nelson allow short-term rentals with owners on or off the site.
“If you allow, there’s an opportunity for revenue. If you don’t allow, there’s an opportunity for expense,” Mattes said.
Grice said she still has a concern about this having effects on long-term rentals.
A Merlot Avenue resident addressed council by saying she and her husband have a vacation rental (secondary suite) with a business licence, noting they have followed all of the rules and regulations.
“We’ve never had any complaints,” she said, adding that all of their guests are vetted.
But the resident said it seems that council is picking on vacation rentals as opposed to long-term rentals, “which to me have far more demands on emergency services and bylaw services.”
She noted she had to call bylaw services on several occasions regarding the long-term rental next door to her.
The woman said if she wasn’t allowed to operate a vacation rental in an RS1 area, she would not do it long-term, so it would be empty.
She noted that vacation rentals bring in a lot of money to the community, citing that one person who stayed in her rental for four nights spent $2,500 on wine.
Schwartzenberger said he has never had a problem with the vacation rental next to him where he lives.
Council approved the recommendation to offer public consultation with options.