The do’s and don’ts of short-term rentals

Officials weigh in on nightly rentals in Whistler

The nightly rental business is booming with the rise of online hosting sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Whistler is no exception, with over 700 hosts currently listed on Airbnb’s rental platform.

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Before you decide to list your place online, there are a few things to consider.  

“The first thing is to make sure it’s right for you,” said Aaron Zifkin, the regional host and community operations director for Airbnb’s Americas region. “People that host on Airbnb do it for a number of reasons. Primarily they love meeting people from all over the world and it’s a great way to earn a couple of extra dollars in a flexible way. And it’s a great way to monetize what’s usually someone’s most valuable asset, which is their home.”

Recent surveys from Airbnb show that an overwhelming majority of those who use Airbnb to find accommodation do so because they want the authentic, local experience of the place they’re visiting.

“Think about all the great things you do as a local (in Whistler),” said Zifkin. “If I was your best friend or cousin coming from out of town, what are the things and experiences that you would want me to have to understand your life in Whistler?”

Although Zifkin has experienced hosts who have created guidebooks for him and gone so far as to invite him along to dinner with their friends then travel onwards together to other countries, he emphasizes that there is no expectation for hosts to do so.

“It’s really up to the hosts to decide how involved they want to be with the guests,” he said.

Before you worry whether your home is hotel-standard or not, with 3 million properties on the site, Airbnb targets all types of travellers, on all types of budgets, Zifkin said.

“There’s something for everybody, everything from a shared room to a very, very high-end $15-million property in Whistler,” he added. “Every one of our properties is different and every one of our hosts is different.”

Not all Whistler places should be listed on Airbnb, however.

“Anything under 28 nights in the RS-1 zone is illegal (to rent),” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “It’s not just renting for less than 28 days, but renting to non-residents for less than 28 days.”

To find out whether your property is zoned RS-1 or not, you can either contact Municipal Hall by phone, or visit the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s website. Those who illegally rent out nightly accommodations impact not only their neighbourhood, but also the community in general.

“A property that is zoned for temporary tourist accommodation may be sitting empty because people who are illegally renting their property are taking those and supplying their guests with accommodation,” said Wilhelm-Morden.

And no one wants a large bus pulling up to their neighbourhood with 25 people unloading and partying all weekend long, or the garbage that may sit on the curb because the guests don’t know about Whistler’s garbage procedure.
Enforcement for illegal rentals can go as far as pursuing a lawsuit and follow criminal proceedings, “so it’s serious,” said Wilhelm-Morden.

To learn about becoming an Airbnb host visit Airbnb.ca/host/homes. For more information about the zoning of your property, visit whistler.ca/zoning.

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