How To Airbnb

A Guide To Vancouver’s Short-term Rental Regulations

Vancouver buildings and properties downtown

As Vancouver’s short-term housing bylaws reach their first birthday this summer, we’ve compiled some things you should know as a Vancouver resident who wants the freedom to travel while using Airbnb to supplement your travel costs.

First Of All, What Is A Short-term Rental?

  • A short-term rental can be an entire home, apartment, townhouse or condo (or a room inside that home, apartment, townhouse or condo), that is rented for less than 30 consecutive days at a time. Anything above that is subject to ‘regular rental’ laws under the Residential Tenancy Act. 
  • A short-term rental can only be operated from your principal residence. This means that you have to use this home for bills, identification, taxes and insurance. Most importantly, you have to live there for 6 months + 1 day per year. 
  • Owners take note: homes that are subject to the empty homes tax cannot be rented out short-term! You cannot short-term rent your unit as a way to evade the empty homes tax. The city wants landlords to place real tenants in to their homes or move someone in to every property in the city.

Ok, I have a ‘primary residence’. What next?

1. Check to see if you qualify:

  • Strata approval: 
    • If you have a strata, your strata must approve of AirBnB and Short Term Rentals in your building. If not, you can be subject to a fine of up to $1000 per day. Every month, more Vancouver Stratas have been voting yes to allow Airbnb in their buildings – see why here. However, a special note here: if your strata laws do not mention short term rentals, the city bylaws state that this does not count as an approval. The laws need to specifically mention short term rentals, otherwise they are not allowed.
  • Landlord approval:
    • Same as Strata approval – your landlord must consent in writing to you short-term-renting your suite. 
  • Confirm that your home is a legal dwelling unit by city bylaws. 
skyscraper building in vancouver that has strata approval to airbnb
Many Vancouver strata councils, like the one at 1888 Keefer place, have approved short term rentals in the building.

2. If you qualify, get a license to operate and follow the guidelines:

  • To operate a short term rental or AirBnB, you need a valid business licence which should be included in all online listings and advertisements. This can be acquired for $58, plus a yearly renewal fee, through the city of Vancouver websiteThe process is simple and quick. 
  • Then, once you get your license:
    1. Print it and hang it on the wall in your rental suite.
    2. Input the license # to your airbnb account. You can find this on your listing under “the Space” heading:
    3. Update it at the end of each year, in December. Renewal fee is $51.
  • Any short-term listing in Vancouver that does not have an up-to-date licence number is subject to fines and enforcement by the City of Vancouver and the city has been fining people, so be on guard!

How is the City of Vancouver enforcing the laws?

  • The City of Vancouver can fine operators of short-term rentals for:
    • Operating without a valid business license.
    • Listing/Advertising a short-term rental without displaying a valid business licence.
    • Operating a short-term rental in a home that is not their principal residence.
    • Running an Airbnb/Homeaway/etc. on behalf of a business.
    • Having your guests stay at a property that is unsafe.
  • First-time offenders may be fined up to $1000 – however, repeat offenders may be subject to prosecution and fines of up to $10,000. It appears that the city is only fining owners $1000 at a time for now, since there have not been any larger fine settlements.
  • If you’re unsure, the City of Vancouver has a full checklist reviewing everything you need to obtain a licence. You can get the checklist here

You can read more about the requirements for operating a short-term rental on the City of Vancouver’s website.

Useful links:

The City of Vancouver’s Responsible Short Term Rental Operator Handbook

Airbnb’s Frequently Asked Questions about Vancouver’s Home Sharing Registration Process

The City of Vancouver’s Website on Short Term Rentals

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