Told to shut down Airbnb

UPDATED: 12:42 p.m.

The City of Vernon has provided clarification as to why a Vernon woman and her neighbour were told to shut their Airbnbs down despite hundreds being operated throughout the city.  

While there are currently no rules around advertising an Airbnb, the city does require that short-term rental owners be licensed as bed and breakfasts.

The City of Vernon stated in response to Castanet's requests for clarification that bed and breakfast is the only category of rental accommodation in residential areas in the City of Vernon.

"The requirements for bed and breakfast licensing includes safety standards and owner occupancy. Licensing helps owners ensure their rentals are safe and up to code, and also opens the door to promotion at local visitor centres," was stated by the City of Vernon.

But, even if an Airbnb owner decided to get licensed as a bed and breakfast, they might not be approved to operate.

"The city of Vernon will begin working on a short-term rental policy in the coming months. The project will provide many opportunities for the public and the business community to provide input."

Rules around the enforcement of bed and breakfast accommodations are enforced on a complaint basis.

The city stated that to date, it has only recieved a few complaints.

ORIGINAL: 5 a.m.

There are more than 300 places in Vernon available for rent on Airbnb. 

From guest houses to single rooms to entire homes, many people in the North Okanagan use the site as a way to make some extra money by renting out their available space.  

So, when Tania Hollingsworth received a letter from the City of Vernon telling her she must stop letting out her basement suite on Airbnb or face a fine, she was caught off guard. 

"I live at the end of a dead-end street, with a shared driveway," explains Hollingsworth. "You wouldn't even know I have an Airbnb. I've only had five reviews and I have only had six couples stay. It hasn't been crazy or successful."

The single mother started listing her basement suite on Airbnb at the beginning of June as a way to help with the bills. Hollingsworth says because she has a child, she has been very picky with the people she rents to.

"It is my basement suite. I do live in the house upstairs, so I am cautious to rent to the right people." 

The letter delivered to Hollingsworth states that the City of Vernon has investigated a complaint regarding illegal land use at her home. It states her zoning does not allow for a 'tourist housing' use to house 'transient visitors' and that she does not hold a licence to operate a bed and breakfast.

The letter was issued to Hollingsworth on Friday. Her neighbour, who also listed accommodations on Airbnb, received the exact same letter.

When Hollingsworth contacted friends who work with the city she was told that Vernon does not currently have existing bylaws in place to stop a person from listing accommodations on Airbnb. 

"I kind of asked around and I was told that Vernon is definitely okay with Airbnb."  

In the wake of a provincial housing crisis, the BC government has announced measures to try and crack down on short-term accommodations. Most recently, it gave more power to strata to prevent condominiums from turning into hotels.

But Hollingsworth says it doesn't feel like the city or government is cracking down on Airbnbs, it feels more like somebody who lives nearby has possibly launched a complaint with the city against her and her neighbour.

According to the letter from the city, Hollingsworth and her neighbour will have until Sept. 10 to remove all advertising offering the property as a short-term rental or face a fine or further enforcement. 

Hollingsworth hasn't decided what she plans to do about the letter, but she says she wants some answers.

"I want to get to the bottom of it. Also maybe find what neighbour complained about people staying in my basement."

Castanet has reached out to the City of Vernon for clarification which bylaw Hollingsworth and her neighbour are in breach of but has not yet had a response.

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