Victoria business petitions to stop B.C.’s incoming short-term rental law

A Victoria business that provides hosting services for short-term rentals has signed on to be the representative party in a legal petition seeking to invalidate some of the provisions in the incoming provincewide restrictions on the units.

“As it stands right now, if no changes are made, it completely decimates us,” Angela Mason, of Amala Rental Solutions Ltd., said of the impact the new law will have on her business when it goes into effect on May 1.

The stated purpose of B.C.’s Short-Term Rental Accommodation Act is to return units to the long-term rental market by limiting short-term rentals — excluding hotel and motel rooms — to a host’s principal residence and one secondary suite or accessory dwelling unit.

This essentially means many, if not all, of the units Amala provides hosting services for will become illegal under the new rules. Her business does the cleaning, client communication and other tasks for owners of units in a three block radius of her Pandora Street storefront in downtown Victoria.

Amala has already had to let go of most of their staff, going from 36 workers down to 10, Mason said.

“Some of these people have been with us for, like, four or five years,” she said. “And these folks have worked tirelessly.”

The suit is being brought by Amala in concert with a group called the West Coast Association for Property Rights, and the costs are being borne jointly by a group of property owners affected by the law. Because Amala is a business that hosts for about 100 short-term rentals, and Mason owns one unit herself, the group has filed the petition under her name.

“I was asked if I wanted to be representative for a single property owner, and then also if I wanted to be represented for businesses,” Mason said of the arrangement.

The arguments against the new regulations range from justifications based on common-law property rights as outlined by the Magna Carta in the year 1215, to modern case law with precedents in which it was ruled that disallowing an owner of property to use that property counts as expropriation, and that expropriation cannot happen without compensation.

So, the arguments are attempting to first establish that not allowing owners of units to do what they want with them is a violation of property rights, and failing that, arguing the owners of those units should be given compensation if their right to use them as they wish is taken away.

The provincial government would not comment on the case specifically, but did provide a statement about the new regulations.

“We’re taking action to reign in short-term rentals and turn more units back into homes for people,” says a statement from a housing ministry spokesperson. “The province’s principal-residence requirement for short-term rentals will go into effect as planned in many B.C. communities on May 1, 2024.”

The City of Victoria is also named in the filing, and a spokesperson said the city’s legal team reviewing the petition and will respond in accordance with the rules of the court.

Mason would like to see illegally operating units dealt with, but said the units her company serves are owned by people who have always played by the rules, and shouldn’t be punished for that.

If the petition fails, she doesn’t have an idea of what the path forward for her business could be.

“My business, as I know it today, is done,” she said.

READ MORE: Victoria council rejects mayor’s push to delay B.C.’s short-term rental rule