- Burnaby Beacon
- Higher fines may be coming for short-term rentals
Higher fines may be coming for short-term rentals
City council wants fine increases and to add fines to annual property taxes
During the special committee of council’s meeting on Dec. 6, committee members voted to send a letter to the attorney general and minister of municipal affairs to increase the maximum daily penalties under the Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act (LGBNEA) for owners of short-term rental (STR) accommodations.
Current legislation requires STR operators to obtain a Burnaby business licence before putting a unit on the market and restricts operators to one business licence and one STR unit.
Sign on the door of a Burnaby condo tower. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy
“It’s not just a mom-and-pop renting out a suite; it has become a business now, so we need to have strong enforcement,” Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said at the committee meeting.
“What hasn’t been working well is the enforcement part of it. I looked at the report. It seems like a lot of people are flouting the business license part,” he added.
Dhaliwal suggested that the city update its fines and added that some STR owners have taken advantage of weaknesses in enforcing current bylaws.
According to Dan Layng, the chief inspector of licensing for the city, 15-20% of those operating STRs violate Burnaby’s current bylaws. He said that many owners eligible to apply for business licences refuse to comply with the bylaws, calling it an uphill battle to get compliance. The current penalty for violators is a maximum of $500 per day.
“The biggest change that will assist the cities is the adoption of the registry where the service providers and everybody advertising on the service providers’ websites will be required to have a business licence, if the cities require it, and a registry number,” Layng said. “Once that takes place—it’s scheduled to take place in late 2024—that will be a game-changer for the city. It will make our enforcement practices much simpler.”
Layng added that these measures will put the onus on the business to receive a licence before posting their property for rent. The city uses a third-party provider to do a data scrape and provide the city with addresses.
“It seems, as the chair said, that most of these people are just ignoring our rules and bylaws, and we need to become a little stronger and put more teeth into the enforcement,” Coun. Pietro Calendino said.
The committee also requested that the province add any unpaid fines to the property taxes of STR owners to improve enforcement of the bylaws and collection.
Calendino asked if putting those violations on people’s property taxes is possible. Layng replied that this is not currently possible under the Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act (LGBNEA).
One of the committee’s requests to the attorney general and minister of municipal affairs is to increase fines under the LGBNEA. The province recently announced that it will increase the maximum penalty to $3,000 per day, which applies only under the Municipal Ticket Information (MTI) system. This does not apply to Burnaby, as the city uses the LGBNEA process to enforce bylaws, and the maximum daily fine is $500 under this system.
According to a report by United Way BC, one in five senior-led households in Burnaby spends more than 50% of their income on rent, putting them at risk of homelessness due to the scarcity of affordable rental housing.
One measure the province has enacted to deal with the crisis is cracking down on STRs such as Airbnb and Vrbo and returning STRs to the long-term rental market.
This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.