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Sicamous, Canada Short-Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Sicamous, Canada

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What are Short-Term Rental (Airbnb, VRBO) Regulations in Sicamous, British Columbia?

Sicamous, a popular vacation destination in British Columbia, has recently implemented new regulations for short-term rentals (STRs) like Airbnb and VRBO. These rules aim to balance the economic benefits of STRs with the quality of life for local residents. Here's what you need to know about operating a short-term rental in Sicamous.

Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in Sicamous

As of January 11, 2023, short-term rentals are only permitted in specific zones in Sicamous. To legally operate an STR, hosts must obtain a business license from the District of Sicamous. The cost of the license is currently $95, but it is expected to increase in the near future.

In addition to the business license, STR operators must meet several other requirements:

  • Provide off-street parking for guests
  • Limit occupancy to a maximum of 2 adults per bedroom
  • Have a "Local Responsible Person" who can attend the property within 1 hour to address any complaints

Bylaw enforcement officers retain the right to review online listing details to ensure compliance with these regulations. Non-compliant STR owners face daily fines starting January 31, 2024.

For properties that are part of a strata, the strata board must approve the operation of an STR before the district can issue a business license. This has led to some disagreements within strata councils. In one case, the Legacy on Mara Lake strata asked Sicamous council to rezone the property to disallow STRs due to an internal dispute.

The introduction of these regulations has had a substantial impact on the local hospitality industry. Some STR owners have had to cease operations or reduce availability to meet the new compliance requirements. In March 2024, Sicamous council denied a temporary use permit that would have allowed a man to operate an STR in a residential area.

Despite these challenges, many see the regulations as a necessary step to manage the growth of STRs in a way that benefits both the community and the tourism industry. The District of Sicamous has set up a task force to get feedback from STR owners and residents as they continue to refine the rules.

If you're considering starting a short-term rental business in Sicamous, it's important to familiarize yourself with the current regulations and stay up-to-date on any changes. The district's website, www.sicamous.ca, offers further information and resources for STR operators.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Sicamous

To legally operate a short-term rental in Sicamous, property owners must obtain a business license from the District of Sicamous. Here are the key requirements and details of the licensing process:

Zoning Compliance: As of January 11, 2023, STRs are only permitted in specific zones, including MUR-2, CR, C-1 to C-4, and C-6. Properties in residential zones may require rezoning or a temporary use permit to operate an STR.

Application: STR operators can apply for a business license online through the District of Sicamous website or submit a PDF application via email to developmentservices@sicamous.ca.

Fees: The current fee for an STR business license is $265. This fee reflects the cost of providing the service and is higher than the standard business license fee of $95.

Local Contact Person: STR operators must provide a "Local Responsible Person" who can attend the property within 1 hour to address any complaints.

Occupancy Limits: STRs are limited to a maximum occupancy of 2 adults per bedroom.

Parking: Operators must provide off-street parking for guests.

Strata Approval: For properties that are part of a strata, the strata board must approve the operation of an STR before the district can issue a business license.

Taxes: STR operators must collect and remit the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and the Municipal Regional District Tax (MRDT) of 2% for guest stays.

The processing time for STR business licenses is not specified, but applicants can expect a response within a few weeks. Bylaw enforcement officers have the right to review online listing details to ensure compliance with these regulations.

Starting January 31, 2024, the District of Sicamous will begin enforcing STR regulations, which may include daily fines for non-compliant operators. The exact fine amounts are not provided, but other municipalities like Kelowna charge daily fines of up to $500 for unlicensed STRs.

It's crucial for STR operators to familiarize themselves with these requirements and obtain the necessary licenses to avoid penalties and ensure a safe and fair short-term rental market in Sicamous.

Required Documents for Sicamous Short-Term Rentals

To apply for a short-term rental business license in Sicamous, property owners must submit the following documents:

  1. Completed Application Form: The STR business license application form can be filled out online through the District of Sicamous website or downloaded as a PDF and submitted via email to developmentservices@sicamous.ca.
  2. Proof of Property Ownership: Applicants must provide a copy of the title or land title search proving ownership of the property. This document can be obtained from the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia.
  3. Strata Approval (if applicable): If the property is part of a strata, the applicant must submit a letter from the strata council approving the use of the property as an STR.
  4. Floor Plan: A detailed floor plan of the property, including room dimensions and proposed occupancy, must be submitted. This helps the district ensure compliance with occupancy limits and fire safety requirements.
  5. Parking Plan: Applicants must provide a site plan showing the location and number of off-street parking spaces available for STR guests.
  6. Local Contact Person Form: STR operators must designate a "Local Responsible Person" who can attend the property within 1 hour to address any complaints. The contact information for this person must be submitted on the provided form.
  7. Proof of Insurance: Although not explicitly mentioned in the STR regulations, it is recommended that applicants provide proof of appropriate insurance coverage for their rental property.

These documents help the District of Sicamous ensure that STR properties meet all necessary requirements and maintain a safe and well-regulated short-term rental market. Failure to provide any of the required documents may result in the denial or delay of the STR business license application.

Sicamous Short-Term Rental Taxes

When operating a short-term rental in Sicamous, British Columbia, there are several taxes that owners must collect and remit to the appropriate authorities. Understanding these taxes is crucial for compliance and proper financial planning.

Provincial Sales Tax (PST): The PST is an 8% tax that applies to all short-term accommodations in British Columbia, including those in Sicamous. STR operators must register to collect PST and remit it to the provincial government on a regular basis.

Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT): The MRDT is an additional tax that applies to short-term accommodations in participating municipalities and regional districts. In Sicamous, the MRDT rate is currently 2%. This tax is collected by the province and returned to the district to fund tourism marketing and initiatives.

Goods and Services Tax (GST): The GST is a federal tax that applies to most goods and services in Canada, including short-term rentals. The current GST rate is 5%. If your total annual revenue from STR activities exceeds $30,000 in a 12-month period, you must register for and collect GST from your guests.

In total, STR operators in Sicamous must collect and remit 15% in taxes (8% PST + 2% MRDT + 5% GST) on their rental income.

Tax Deductions and Write-Offs

To offset some of the tax burden, STR operators can claim certain expenses as tax deductions. These may include:

  1. Mortgage interest
  2. Property taxes
  3. Insurance
  4. Utilities
  5. Cleaning and maintenance costs
  6. Advertising and platform fees
  7. Depreciation on furniture and equipment

It's important to keep accurate records of all income and expenses related to your STR business. Consult with a tax professional to ensure you are claiming all eligible deductions and maximizing your tax savings.

By understanding the applicable taxes and available deductions, STR operators in Sicamous can ensure compliance with local regulations and optimize their financial performance.

British Columbia Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

In addition to the local regulations in Sicamous, short-term rental hosts must also comply with provincial rules set by the British Columbia government. The Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act, which came into effect on May 1, 2024, introduces several key changes that impact hosts across the province:

  1. Principal Residence Requirement: In communities with populations over 10,000, short-term rentals are limited to a host's principal residence, plus one additional unit, secondary suite, or laneway/garden suite on the property. This rule aims to prevent investors from operating multiple short-term rental properties, which can reduce long-term housing availability.
  2. Removal of Non-Conforming Use Protections: As of May 1, 2024, legal non-conforming use protections no longer apply to short-term rentals. This means that if a property was previously allowed to operate as a short-term rental despite not conforming to current zoning bylaws, it may now be prohibited.
  3. Business License Display: Where local governments require a business license for short-term rentals, hosts must display their valid license number on all listings. Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO must remove listings that fail to comply with this requirement.
  4. Data Sharing: Starting in summer 2024, short-term rental platforms will be required to share listing data with the province on a monthly basis to aid in enforcement efforts.
  5. Provincial Registry: By early 2025, British Columbia plans to launch a provincial short-term rental registry. Hosts will need to obtain a registration number and include it on their listings, and platforms must remove listings without valid registration numbers.
  6. Increased Fines: The Act raises the maximum fines for hosts violating local bylaws, allowing municipalities to charge up to $3,000 per infraction per day. Regional districts can now set fines as high as $50,000, matching the municipal limit.

These provincial regulations work in tandem with local bylaws to create a comprehensive framework for managing short-term rentals. Hosts in Sicamous and throughout British Columbia must familiarize themselves with both sets of rules to ensure full compliance and avoid potential penalties.

While some stakeholders, such as Airbnb, have expressed concerns about the impact of these regulations on the tourism industry, the government maintains that the measures are necessary to address the province's housing crisis and protect long-term rental stock

Does Sicamous Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions in online forums like Reddit and BiggerPockets, it appears that Sicamous does enforce its short-term rental regulations fairly strictly compared to some other cities in British Columbia. The district has implemented a comprehensive licensing system and conducts regular inspections to ensure compliance.

However, some hosts still attempt to operate STRs without proper licensing or in violation of zoning requirements. In a Reddit thread discussing the "friendliest Airbnb cities," one user commented that Sicamous is "not particularly Airbnb-friendly" due to its strict regulations and enforcement efforts.

On the BiggerPockets forums, an investor asked about the best cities for short-term rental investments. Several respondents noted that while Sicamous is a popular tourist destination, its stringent STR rules make it less attractive for Airbnb operators compared to more lenient cities like Kelowna or Tofino.

Despite the risks of non-compliance, some hosts continue to operate STRs in Sicamous under the radar. A Reddit user shared an anecdote about a Sicamous property manager who helps owners run unlicensed vacation rentals by handling guest communication and avoiding online listings that could attract the attention of bylaw officers.

Overall, while Sicamous may not be the most Airbnb-friendly city in British Columbia, the consensus among online forum participants is that the district takes its STR regulations seriously and actively works to enforce them. Hosts operating without proper licensing face a high likelihood of being caught and fined. Investors seeking STR opportunities may find better returns and fewer regulatory hurdles in other BC cities with more relaxed rules.

How to Start a Short-Term Rental Business in Sicamous

Starting a short-term rental (STR) business in Sicamous requires careful planning and adherence to local regulations. Follow these steps to ensure a successful and compliant operation:

  1. Check Zoning Requirements: Verify that your property is located in a zone that allows short-term rentals. As of January 11, 2023, STRs are permitted in the MUR-2, CR, C-1 to C-4, and C-6 zones. If your property is not in one of these zones, you may need to apply for rezoning or a temporary use permit.
  2. Obtain Strata Approval (if applicable): If your property is part of a strata, obtain written approval from the strata council to operate an STR. This is a prerequisite for obtaining a business license from the District of Sicamous.
  3. Prepare Your Property: Ensure your property meets all safety and sanitation standards, including working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, clear escape routes, and properly maintained electrical and heating systems. Refer to the District's Pre-Inspection Checklist for a complete list of requirements.
  4. Develop a Parking Plan: Create a detailed parking plan that provides one off-street parking space per bedroom, with a minimum size of 2.75m wide by 6m long. Include this plan with your business license application.
  5. Create a Fire Safety Plan: Develop a fire safety plan that includes the locations of fire extinguishers, smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, and emergency exits. Submit this plan with your business license application.
  6. Designate a Local Contact Person: Appoint a "Local Responsible Person" who can respond to emergencies or complaints at the property within 1 hour. Provide their contact information to the District of Sicamous.
  7. Apply for a Business License: Submit your business license application to the District of Sicamous, along with the required documents (parking plan, fire safety plan, strata approval, etc.) and the $265 fee. Applications can be submitted online or via email to developmentservices@sicamous.ca.
  8. Register for Provincial Taxes: Register to collect and remit the 8% Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and the 2% Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) on your rental income. If your annual revenue exceeds $30,000, you must also register for the 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  9. List Your Property: Once your business license is approved, create listings on popular platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. Ensure that your business license number is prominently displayed on all listings, as required by provincial law.
  10. Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with any changes to local or provincial STR regulations, and maintain open communication with the District of Sicamous to ensure ongoing compliance.

Tips for Success:

  1. Provide exceptional customer service to encourage positive reviews and repeat bookings
  2. Maintain a high standard of cleanliness and safety to protect your guests and your property
  3. Consider hiring a professional property manager to handle day-to-day operations and guest communication
  4. Develop a detailed house manual with clear instructions and local recommendations for guests
  5. Invest in high-quality photos and descriptions for your listings to attract more bookings

By following these steps and prioritizing compliance with local regulations, you can build a successful and sustainable short-term rental business in Sicamous.

Who to Contact in Sicamous about Short-Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

If you have questions about short-term rental regulations or zoning in Sicamous, you can contact the District of Sicamous Development Services Department:

  1. Email: developmentservices@sicamous.ca
  2. Phone: 250-836-2477
  3. Address: 446 Main Street, PO Box 219, Sicamous, BC V0E 2V0

The Development Services Department can provide information on zoning requirements, business licensing, and the application process for operating a short-term rental in Sicamous.

For the most up-to-date information on short-term rental regulations, visit the District of Sicamous website at www.sicamous.ca/doing-business/short-term-rentals.

In addition to contacting the District directly, short-term rental hosts in Sicamous may find the following online communities and forums helpful:

Airbnb Community - Hosting Forum: https://community.withairbnb.com/t5/Hosting/bd-p/listing-and-reservations

This forum allows Airbnb hosts to connect, share experiences, and ask questions.

Sicamous Short-Term Rentals Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sicamousSTR/

A community for short-term rental owners and operators in Sicamous to discuss local regulations, best practices, and industry news.

BiggerPockets Forums - Short-Term Rental Discussions: https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/530-short-term-rental-discussions

While not specific to Sicamous, this forum is a great resource for general advice on running a successful short-term rental business.

By staying connected with local authorities and engaging with other short-term rental hosts online, you can ensure that you have the most current information on regulations and best practices for operating a compliant and successful short-term rental in Sicamous.

What Do Airbnb Hosts in Sicamous on Reddit and Bigger Pockets Think about Local Regulations?

While there are limited direct discussions about short-term rental regulations in Sicamous on Reddit and BiggerPockets, hosts in nearby areas of British Columbia have shared their experiences and opinions:

Strict Enforcement: In a Reddit thread about the "friendliest Airbnb cities," one user commented that Sicamous is "not particularly Airbnb-friendly" compared to other BC cities due to its strict regulations and enforcement efforts.

Challenges for Investors: On the BiggerPockets forums, an investor asked about the best cities for short-term rental investments. Several respondents noted that while Sicamous is a popular tourist destination, its stringent STR rules make it less attractive for Airbnb operators compared to more lenient cities like Kelowna or Tofino.

Operating Under the Radar: A Reddit user shared an anecdote about a Sicamous property manager who helps owners run unlicensed vacation rentals by handling guest communication and avoiding online listings that could attract the attention of bylaw officers. This suggests that some hosts still attempt to operate STRs without proper licensing.

Impact on Housing Availability: In a discussion about relocating to rural BC, a commenter mentioned that the short-term rental market in popular tourist areas like the Okanagan and Kootenays has contributed to a shortage of long-term rentals and high housing costs.

Importance of Research: Across various threads, experienced hosts emphasize the importance of thoroughly researching local regulations before investing in a short-term rental property. They advise potential operators to understand zoning requirements, licensing processes, and enforcement practices in their specific municipality.

While these insights provide a general sense of the STR landscape in the region, it's important to note that regulations and enforcement can vary significantly between cities. Prospective hosts in Sicamous should contact the District directly and consult with local experts to ensure compliance with the most current rules and best practices.

Disclaimer: While we here at BNBCalc strive to keep all of our city regulation guides updated and accurate with all the latest local laws, we still do not suggest using them as your sole or primary source for local regulations. We also do not recommend you rely on the third-party sources we link to or reference, and we are not responsible for any of the information on these third-party sites. These guides are for entertainment purposes only and only provide basic information and should not be considered as legal advice.

We highly recommend directly contacting the responsible parties for each city and hearing what their officials have to say. Ultimately, it's your responsibility as an investor to ensure you fully comply with the local laws, and it's best to speak with professionals before making an investment decision.

⚡️
Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.