The City of Fernie is looking at the current short-term rental bylaw to see if adjustments are needed. (Jasper Myers / The Free Press)

The City of Fernie is looking at the current short-term rental bylaw to see if adjustments are needed. (Jasper Myers / The Free Press)

Short-term rentals in Fernie not so clear cut

The bylaw for short-term rentals isn’t being upheld according to one business owner

Short-term rentals are becoming more common in Fernie and surrounding areas and this brings its own issues with it.

Ryland Nelson of Beyondbnb, a vacation rental services provider in Fernie, alleges a number of properties being advertised for short-term rentals are either unlicensed or non-compliant units.

“We work incredibly diligently to ensure that all of the 123 rentals that we manage in town, not just this town but other towns as well, are licensed and legal and following all of the regulations,” said Nelson.

“I don’t know if they (other properties) have licenses and just didn’t post them, I don’t have access to that information.”

In 2017 the City of Fernie put a bylaw in place to regulate short-term rentals in the city, requiring licensing, registration and guidelines for what can be rented out.

Every year the license has to be renewed for a fee and Nelson said that means he spends time and money to do this, which can cost him around $1000.

“On January 1 I have to go and submit 100 business licenses at the city,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he’s been complaining to bylaw “for a number of years” and compiled a list of rentals for them to look at after they reached out to him regarding one of his complaints.

“And since then I haven’t heard anything from them,” said Nelson.

Michael Boronowski, Chief Administrative Officer at the city of Fernie, said in 2021 there’s only been two complaints regarding short-term rentals with one consisting of a list of properties that he said are still under review.

Boronowski said a complaint regarding an unlicensed rental is handled like any bylaw complaint.

“We take action, we contact the business that’s operating without a business licence and we get them to register,” said Boronowski.

If the short-term rental doesn’t get a license after it’s been reviewed, bylaw will monitor and make sure the activity stops.

In regards to enforcement of the bylaw, Boronowski said the city is working on a few different things such as seasonal enforcement and analysis.

“And in September bringing a report forward to council that shows the volume of short-term rentals compared to business licenses and provide some options in how we confirm where they’re happening and lean into enforcement around there if that’s council’s direction,” said Boronowski.

Nelson said the bylaw on short-term rentals needs to be adjusted.

“This was the first iteration of the short-term rental bylaw,” said Nelson.

“But I think it’s maybe time to revisit and improve.”

Nelson said the bylaw could be updated to help streamline the renewal process.

“Operators like myself and Fernie Central Reservations should be able to do a bulk application instead of 100 different applications,” said Nelson.

As for the listings online, Boronowski said it’s not as simple as just looking at a listing for compliance.

“A big challenge with Airbnb and Vrbo is you go through the process of getting a business license, listing your short-term rental, renting it out once and then if you decide to rent it out long-term and not do Airbnb – a lot of people still retain the account,” said Boronowski.

“When you look at the data feed services that tell you the number of Vrbos or Airbnbs you’ve got in your community, they look at the number of registered units. Whether they’re being actively rented or not is another question.”

“Ultimately my goal is to just have a level playing field … for short-term rentals in this town,” said Nelson.

“I think we have a chance to get this under control before it gets more out of control.”

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jasper.myers@thefreepress.ca
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