People from all over the world are visiting Parksville Qualicum Beach and they are using many different methods to find accommodations.

THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: Is it time for regulations related to so-called ‘illegal’ vacation rentals in Parksville Qualicum Beach?

Tourism association, chamber of commerce asking for a level playing field

The local tourism association and chamber of commerce are asking municipalities to introduce laws reigning in the so-called ‘illegal’ vacation rental business.

Sandy Herle, the chair of the Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association, and Kim Burden, the executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce, appeared before city council Monday night.

“What we are asking for is a playing field that’s level,” said Herle.

“We have in our community a number of businesses that are operating illegally,” said Burden. “We need to supply a mechanism to allow compliance.”

Herle and Burden spoke about requiring these rentals to obtain a business licence, for starters. They also said the home insurance of people renting out their places might be invalid if they are conducting this type of business.

A check on a website called Airbnb showed 300 rentals available in Parksville alone. They ranged from small rooms and cottages to large homes and were priced from less than $75/night to thousands of dollars a week. It’s not clear how many could be called ‘illegal.’

Promising not to publish their names or addresses, The NEWS asked some of the people who were offering rentals on Airbnb for their comments about any new rules and regulations they may face.

“Do you get a business licence for something that collects maybe $5,000 a year?” said one Parksville homeowner. “I could collect beer bottles and make that.”

Bill (not his real name) said he isn’t concerned about liability. He also said he isn’t doing this for the money.

“I’ve talked with all my insurance people,” said Bill. “They know exactly what’s going on. And it’s a personal thing — I enjoy bringing people in from the U.K., Australia.”

Another person who rents out her place in Parksville through Airbnb said she was OK with the implementation of any new rules.

“I support the idea of creating rules and regulations around Airbnb,” said Betty (not her real name). “If that means licensing, then Airbnb should abide by those regulations.”

Herle and Burden spoke about requiring these rentals to obtain a business licence, for starters. Burden spoke about the possibility of temporary use permits that could last four years. He cited the Okanagan Similkameen Regional District’s model of temporary use permits as something the city could adopt through a bylaw. He also said any moves toward bylaws would have to be co-ordinated with both the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Town of Qualicum Beach.

Herle told council she understands some people rent out their homes as a “mortgage helper.” On the other side of the equation she also said “we recognize this type of traveller is not going away.”

And it’s not all about Airbnb. The NEWS received this e-mail on Wednesday from a company called nightswapping.com:

“What if you could travel thanks to your guest room?,” read the e-mail. “I don’t mean renting your place out to demanding travelers, no, I’m talking about trading nights. A European concept enjoyed for the fact that no money is involved. With NightSwapping, your guest room allows you to earn travel credits (nights) that you can then use to stay all over the world. Forget the ‘money-making guest room’, it’s now a place to welcome friendly travellers and earn credits for your next weekend away. Could NightSwapping be the new spirit of the sharing economy and challenge Airbnb?”

On Monday night at Parksville city council, Coun. Mary Beil called these rentals part of the “underground economy.” She also said she believes the people who rent their homes through websites like Airbnb “want to do the right thing.” Beil put forward a motion to have staff provide a report on the subject.

Coun. Kirk Oates asked staff if it had received any complaints about so-called ‘illegal’ vacation rentals. The reply from staff was zero.

“I’m not sure there is an appetite for this (new regulations) in the community at all,” said Oates.

Beil’s motion passed and staff will provide a report on the issue for council’s consideration at a future meeting.

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