EDITORIAL: Rental debate

Is there a need for more regulations regarding vacation rentals?

There are so many layers to the debate about private vacation home rentals, there doesn’t seem to be one easy answer.

Many jurisdictions, including Parksville, are considering — or being asked to consider — the creation of bylaws that would put some kind of order to what’s currently without regulation.

The first consideration should be safety. Are there legitimate concerns about the safety of places being rented to visitors through unregulated means? You cannot build a bedroom without a window, to cite one example of a building code regulation. We’re not entirely sure that’s relevant here, but you get the idea.

Fire extinguishers? Safe balconies and railings? Places like hotels and resorts must follow strict codes in relation to these issues, for good reason.

That stated, if you want to rent your suite or house to visitors and your home insurance company is aware of what you are doing, isn’t that coverage enough?

Other concerns include traffic and noise. Bed and breakfasts, hotels and resorts generally fall into a certain category of municipal zoning. If your neighbour is renting his house out for a month to a group of eight golfing buddies who like to drink until 2 a.m., barbecue at all hours and park their cars in front of your house, that’s not likely the neighbourhood rules you thought you were getting when you bought your house.

Another factor may be the rental vacancy rate in a place like Parksville Qualicum Beach, which has hovered between zero and three per cent, closer to zero most of the time, especially May through September. There is an argument that these unregulated rentals are cutting into the housing pool, but we do not find that this point has much merit. People who rent their homes or suites through the Internet aren’t doing it year-round, and the units aren’t usually what anyone would call ‘affordable.’

The hotel industry would have some valid arguments. They follow strict regulations and pay taxes and fees that are above and beyond what the rent-my-suite-on-the-Internet crowd has to pay. Meanwhile, these so-called illegal rentals cut into the hotels’ bottom lines by taking away potential room stays.

Sure, that’s not an issue for the local hotel industry this year, or last year, or perhaps next year. They are reporting record room-stay numbers. However, not every year, or group of five years, is this good.

All in all, it’s a complicated issue. We have a difficult time supporting any more red tape and regulation in our society, but we look forward to the debate.

— Editorial by John Harding