Short term rentals are no longer off the table in the District of Kent, after council voted to begin drafting new bylaws Monday (Jan. 28).
“We know that by allowing short term rentals, we are introducing a type of commercial use into our residential neighbourhoods that has the potential for conflict,” district planner Bronwen said during the meeting Monday.
Verigan said the most common response for municipalities is to permit short term rentals with conditions — although some, like Harrison Hot Springs, have opted to ban the practice in residential areas entirely.
It seems a total ban was not what most residents of the District of Kent wanted. According to a questionnaire sent out by the District of Kent in the fall of 2018, most respondents felt homeowners should have the option of operating a short term rental.
The questionnaire also showed there was some limited interest in residents using their homes for short-term rentals, as nine of the 72 respondents said they would want to advertise on Airbnb or similar sites.
Of course, most support for these rentals came with the caveat that there needs to be a broad range of management rules.
To achieve that breadth of regulations, the district suggested dividing short term rental properties into three categories: bed and breakfasts, rentals where the property is a primary residence for the homeowner and rentals where the property is a secondary residence.
The bed and breakfast category is an existing use in the district on agricultural and single-family residential zones — it is not permitted in townhomes and apartments.
The new short term rental rules would allow people operating a bed and breakfast to have up to four rooms, up from three rooms previously, and will make it so they are no longer required to serve breakfast.
For bed and breakfasts, the owner would still be required to be on site while rooms are being rented and would still need to have a business licence.
The other two categories are similar to the bed and breakfast, with some notable exceptions: short term rentals would be able to have a maximum of five rooms (with a total of eight people) and the owners would not have to be on site while the rooms are being rented.
Short term rentals would also need to have a contact number displayed online and on the property. Like bed and breakfasts, short term rentals would need a business licence, although the district suggested limiting the number of available licences to 50 for the area, with a maximum of two per block.
Additional restrictions would be placed on homeowners who wish to rent out rooms, but don’t live on their property full time.
According to Verigan, the common practice is to keep short term rentals in homes where the owners are primary residents to protect the “long-term rental stock.”
“However,” she added, “council and staff have been approached by a number of people looking to rent out their vacation homes or their investment properties.”
Because of that, the district suggested it include a short term rental classification for properties that are not the owner’s primary residence. However, in an effort to regulate those rentals, the properties would need to be rezoned to a “companion zone.” This would allow council and the public to provide input on these kinds of short term rental properties on a case-by-case basis.
“I do like the idea of them having to come for rezoning so it’s spot zoning on there,” councillor Susan Spaeti said Monday. “I see that as a nice way to balance the need for short term rentals — because I believe there is, and a lot of people use them in different communities. And I think for us to regulate them is better than just to say no.”
Councillors Kerstin Schwichtenberg and Stan Watchorn were also in favour of regulating short term rentals, although Schwichtenberg said the district needed to make sure it was quick to deal with complaints.
“I just want to make sure we have a plan so we’re very responsive with the people who are living there and the neighbours,” she said. “That fining someone and revoking business licences doesn’t take an unlimited amount of time.”
In response, director of development services Darcey Kohuch said residents would have the option to invoke the noise bylaw, which would provide a quick response after hours with the RCMP.
Council voted unanimously to have staff begin drafting a bylaw that would follow the above guidelines for short term rentals. (Councillor Duane Post was absent from the meeting.)
Staff will also look at potential business licence costs for short term rentals, as mayor Sylvia Pranger asked the licences for owners that use the property as a secondary residence to be higher than the proposed $500.
“I have to say the last vacation we took was at a short term vacation rental property in the Okanagan,” Pranger said during council.
“When you’re there using those facilities, many many many people I’m sure spend a lot more time in the community and spend their dollars looking and visiting the community that they’re vacationing in.”