Short-term rental owners fighting against province and City of Victoria

STR owners fight back

Victoria’s Angela Mason joined a civil suit battling the ­province’s new short-term rental ­restrictions because she is ­“devastated” by the ­negative impact on her property-­management business and on her personal unit in a historic downtown building.

She predicts her entire income will evaporate under the new rules, slated to come into effect May 1.

Mason runs Amala Vacation Rental Solutions Ltd. with Ryan Sawatsky, where client numbers have plummeted from 90 in the city’s downtown to fewer than 30. Their staff numbers have shrunk from 36, and Mason anticipates that the business will decline further. Her clients do not own ­multiple properties but have one unit for short-term rentals advertised on online ­platforms such as Airbnb, Mason said Friday.

They typically hold the unit as an investment and it might be a retirement property, she said.

Mason, for example, said she cannot afford to buy a house so she rents a house for her family. In summer 2023, she bought a 500-square-foot studio ­condominium in the ­former Oriental Hotel in the 500 block of Yates Street to use as a ­short-term rental, as was legally allowed. It was to be an ­investment for her future.

It’s a “cool space” with ­skylights, but has no storage, Mason said.

She said her legal right to rent the unit is being taken away.

“I’ve done everything right. Nothing illegally.”

Asked where her income will come from in the future, she laughed ruefully and said: “That’s a great question.”

The West Coast Association for Property Rights, also known as Property Rights B.C., and Mason filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court this week in ­Victoria against the province and City of Victoria.

B.C.’s new Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act bars most short-term rental units that are not part of a principal residence. It limits short-term rentals to a host’s principal residence or a ­basement suite or laneway home on their property.

In the past several months, the province has rolled out a series of major initiatives to free up existing housing for the rental market and to foster new housing development to tackle the lack of affordable housing.

The court petition is being reviewed by City of Victoria lawyers and the city will respond in ­accordance with the rules of court, said Colleen Mycroft, ­Victoria spokesperson.

A B.C. Ministry of ­Housing official said: “We’re taking action to rein in short-term ­rentals and turn more units back into homes for people. As this is a matter before the courts, the ministry is unable to comment on this specific situation.”

Orion Rodgers, Property Rights B.C. president, said ­members do not understand why the province did not instead ­target owners of ­properties who were illegally running a ­short-term rental ­business.

It is not fair to penalize the 634 legally operating units that have ­business licences, he said.

The petition is asking the Supreme Court of B.C. to declare that the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act cannot take away the vested rights of owners to continue using the units for short-term rental.

It is asking the court to decide that the act has or will ­expropriate interests in the land or in businesses affected, and to rule that the new legislation cannot be enforced without c­ompensating them.

The petition is further ­seeking an order or injunction banning the City of Victoria from cancelling business licences related to short-term rentals. It also wants the city to be barred from enforcing bylaws around these rentals.

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