Letter: Tough vacation rental enforcement needed

City of Revelstoke needs to have tough enforcement policies on vacation rentals

Editor,

There is considerable negativity within our community engendered by those who break rules and laws pertaining to vacation rentals for personal advantage. Reprieving or rationalizing uncovered bad behaviour encourages even greater numbers of violations, and precipitates a broad collective sense of unfairness. Few experiences breed discontent more than a perception of unfairness, whatever the context.

Solutions are perhaps not that complicated:

Enforcement: Errors were made early in the game by stating publicly enforcement would be largely complaint driven. This informed constituents that bad actors would likely only get their hand slapped if violations were discovered.

The above policy does not work as residents are hesitant to complain about neighbours in a town our size, and also there are too many individuals willing to break rules and laws for their own benefit. Nevertheless, there have been considerable complaints and one wonders how much discontent on this topic has not been vocalized in public forums, but instead internalized.

We should not focus on pampering and making excuses for rule breakers and law breakers, but rather should be concerned with the majority of good people who play by the rules, observe our laws and bylaws, and respect city government and the collective wishes of the people of our fine city.

Enforcement should be paramount and, contrary to past rationale, will not cost the city but instead may financially benefit the city.

Communication: The city should clearly and regularly communicate to the public that there is zero tolerance for illegal vacation rentals, that an active enforcement officer will be searching for violators, and that there will be painful fines when discovered.

Substantial fines: Something that is a meaningful deterrent, perhaps along the line of $10,000 for the first violation, $20,000 for the second violation, and $40,000 for the third. Fines should transcend any factoring of the cost of doing business, and should be increased with each repeated violation.

Hire an enforcement officer on a contract basis who receives a commission that is a significant portion of substantial fines to be imposed when he/she flags a violator.

Require property managers to participate: The City would have available a list of licensed legal vacation rental properties and all property managers would be required to check the list to verify they are representing a legal vacation rental. To protect residents and owners in the event of a liability claim, property managers should perhaps also be required to verify that proper liability insurance is in place as that will differ from a standard residential policy. These professional actions will require very little effort on the part of property managers.

Commercial taxation: Vacation rentals are a commercial entity and should be taxed accordingly. It is untenable that hoteliers, Revelstoke Mountain Resort and other businesses pay a significantly higher tax rate than vacation rental owners may be paying, as operating a vacation rental home is indeed a business.

Everything possible should be done to ensure that Vacation Rentals are paying commercial taxes. When all vacation rentals are legal and registered and properly deemed commercial for the purposes of taxation, the city will experience a significant legitimate increase in much needed tax revenue to offset deficits.

Joe Verbalis,

Revelstoke