Tofino Vacation Rentals Incorporated will remain shut down until it can prove each one of its clients has a valid business license.
The district’s lead bylaw enforcement officer Flynn Scott refused to grant TVRI a 2017 business license in January and his decision was upheld by Tofino’s municipal council during a special meeting held on May 24.
During that meeting, Scott explained Tofino’s proactive enforcement on unlicensed vacation rentals this year led him to investigate all business license applications and his investigation showed 26 of TVRI’s 39 clients did not have valid business licenses in 2017.
He suggested TVRI was aware some of its clients were not licenced and its services to these clients went beyond advertising as the company was also taking reservations, collecting payments, and providing check in and check out services as well as guest services.
“In my mind, this goes beyond a bulletin board where people can just post up their property. They’re actually operating, advertising and managing these properties,” he said. “As a business licence inspector, I believe that TVRI knowingly offers services to the public for unlawful properties…I believe TVRI should be held accountable for the services they are offering.”
TRVI’s lawyer John Alexander acknowledged the company’s client list included unlicensed properties, but said it was not TVRI’s responsibility to enforce Tofino’s bylaws and that the district should focus its efforts on shutting down individual properties operating unlawfully.
“You have the wrong target here,” he said.
He likened punishing TVRI for illegal vacation rentals to punishing a beer manufacturer for illegal activity in a bar and asked why Tofino hadn’t taken business licences away from landscaping or cleaning companies that are providing services to illegal vacation rentals.
TRVI co-owner Andrew Latchford said he and his business partner Chris Grice purchased the company in 2015 and that the nature of the business remained unchanged since the company’s inception in 1998.
“We essentially provide a service to property owners,” he said.
“We act as an agency for the owners in that we market the property and handle reservations and billing.”
He added his business was not the only accommodation management company in town and that others had received a 2017 business licence despite handling similarly unlicensed clientele.
After hearing from both parties, council unanimously upheld their staff’s decision and told TVRI that a business licence would not be issued until the company could prove all of its clients were properly licenced.
“It’s fairly obvious TVRI manages, markets and advertises a number of properties that either are not licensed or are unable to get their license,” said Coun. Duncan McMaster.
“I believe they have an obligation to ensure the properties they manage are licensed.”