City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Illegal short-term rentals in City of Fernie’s sights

Bylaw is identifying illegal STRs to bring into compliance

Illegal short term rentals (STR) are on notice, with the City of Fernie taking steps to better identify and come after STRs operating without a business license.

In a report to the committee of the whole on August 15, city bylaw 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 existing bylaws and business licences.

“It’s allowing us to be able to more easily identify illegal short-term rentals in the community,” said Leach, who explained that bylaw were training with the new software and would be following through with enforcement when training was completed.

“We have possibly 72 illegal short-term rentals that have been identified, which we will be addressing.”

STRs are a major part of Fernie’s accommodation sector, with many homeowners renting out properties to eager holiday makers as an alternative to hotel stays. The city adopted an STR policy in 2017, requiring operators apply for a business license and be in compliance in regards to what can be rented out.

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

Nevertheless, the city has gone forward with engaging Granicus to better identify STRs out of compliance.

Bylaw officer Leach said that when the department had completed their training and they were certain about what properties were out of compliance, they would begin issuing warning notices giving them two weeks to comply. If they fail to respond or come into compliance, the city would be issuing fines of $750 per day they are out of compliance.

“Hopefully everybody will get on board and start putting in for their business licences,” said Leach.

The number of properties identified so far in preliminary assessments could well rise, with Leach saying that the numbers out there were higher than expected.

“I’m quite surprised by how many illegal short-term rentals are out there, and we’ve just begun to touch the surface at this point.”

A City of Fernie business license in $100. Those wishing to operate STRs need to complete a self-inspection checklist, own properties permitted to have STRs, and submit all documentation at City Hall in person. Information on city bylaws and STR requirements can be found here.

READ MORE: Short-term rentals in Fernie not so clear cut
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