Illegal short-term rentals at City of Fernie tourist sites

Illegal short-term rentals (STRs) are flagged, with the City of Fernie taking steps to better identify and prosecute STRs operating without a business license.

In a report to the committee of the whole on August 15, bylaws officer Robyn Leach said the city had engaged US-based company Granicus, which provides governments with software to identify STRs in the community and cross-reference them with bylaws. existing ones and commercial licenses.

“It allows us to be able to more easily identify illegal short-term rentals in the community,” said Leach, who explained that the settlement was being formed with the new software and would follow the application once the training is completed.

“We have possibly 72 illegal short-term rentals that have been identified, which we are going to tackle.”

STRs are an important part of Fernie’s lodging industry, with many landlords renting properties to eager vacationers as an alternative to hotel stays. The city passed an STR policy in 2017, requiring operators to apply for a business license and be in compliance regarding what can be rented.

Despite the large number of STRs locally, and the chatter about their impact on the long-term rental market (STRs are more lucrative than long-term rentals for landlords), the number of complaints is very low, according to the city, with only two complaints recorded in 2021.

Nonetheless, the city moved forward with Granicus’ engagement to better identify non-compliant STRs.

Bylaws Officer Leach said when the department completes its training and is certain of non-compliant properties, it will begin issuing warning notices giving them two weeks to comply. If they don’t respond or comply, the city will issue fines of $750 per day of non-compliance.

“Hopefully everyone will get on board and start getting their business licenses,” Leach said.

The number of properties identified so far in preliminary assessments may well increase, with Leach saying the numbers were higher than expected.

“I’m quite surprised by the number of illegal short-term rentals, and we’re only just beginning to touch the surface at this point.”

A business license from the city of Fernie for $100. Those wishing to operate STRs must complete a self-inspection checklist, own properties licensed to have STRs, and submit all paperwork to City Hall in person.

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