Ucluelet mayor and council took the unprecedented step of suspending a short-term vacation rental business licence during the Oct. 27 regular meeting. (District of Ucluelet photo)

Ucluelet mayor and council took the unprecedented step of suspending a short-term vacation rental business licence during the Oct. 27 regular meeting. (District of Ucluelet photo)

Ucluelet council slaps six-month suspension on short-term rental due to non-compliance

“It’s been a sad case of cat and mouse and see what we can get away with.”

During the Oct. 27 regular council meeting, Ucluelet mayor and council voted unanimously to suspend the business licence for the “Ucluelet Guest House” Bed and Breakfast on 1183 Helen Road for six-months.

“Ucluelet Guest House” Bed and Breakfast owners Jeff and Naomie Swann and Mike and Jennifer Rhodes faced a long-list of non-compliance actions dating as far back as Nov. 2017.

From the get-go, “Ucluelet Guest House” started operating in 2016 as an illegal short-term rental.

Co-owner Mike Rhodes told council applying for a business licence was an “oversight”.

Shortly after a business licence was obtained in 2017, District of Ucluelet bylaw enforcement officer Brent Ashton filed reports of the “Ucluelet Guest House” not having a long-term tenant. It was also being advertised as a five-bedroom whole house rental. The business licence for 1183 Helen Road was issued for a three-room Bed and Breakfast.

On Aug. 1, 2020, “Ucluelet Guest House” was issued two fines of $100 from the district for Non-compliance BnB and for Noise.

Ashton said in his report that when he went to the 1183 Helen Road property for a noise complaint, he found 16-20 people gathering and drinking. The large gathering was also deemed an offence under the Covid-10 Provincial Health Order.

“I think our biggest mistake in all of this is our advertising, right from the get-go, which we have since rectified and will continue to until we are able to sell the property,” said Rhodes during the Oct. 27 meeting.

The 1183 Helen Road waterfront home is currently listed for $1,549,000.

Bylaw Enforcement Officer Ashton addressed mayor and council on Oct. 27.

“Typically speaking we have about give or take 200 short-term rentals. Typically speaking, compliance is achieved very early on,” said Ashton.

Rhodes pointed out that the long-list of infractions includes only one noise complaint in three years.

“We have been working towards getting compliant. I still think it comes back to the issue of advertising, which we have rectified,” Rhodes re-iterated.

An excerpt of online advertising captured on Oct. 8, 2020 by district staff shows the “Ucluelet Guest House” advertising the rental of the entire house as a five-bedroom rental.

Councillor Rachelle Cole said it’s important to ensure fairness.

“A lot of staff hours and thus tax paying dollars go into making sure that purveyors of all businesses are delivered in a fair manner to all of your neighbours that are owning the same business. A lot of energy goes into this,” she said.

Mayor Mayor Noel said it’s been a number of years of trying to get compliance.

“For me it all goes back to the original business licence. Three rooms are three rooms. It’s been a sad case of cat and mouse and see what we can get away with,” said Noel.

Councillor Marilyn McEwen said this is the first-time council has ever suspended a licence for a short-term vacation rental.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, but I think we really need to put our foot down and show that our bylaws need to be respected,” she said.

“I’m hoping that we never have a case like this again. The degree of non-compliance for three years is just crazy.”

Councillor Jennifer Hoar agreed.

“I really just find that three years is egregious,” she said.

Council deliberated for about twenty-minutes over whether the suspension should be three months or six. In the end, the owners of “Ucluelet Guest House” were issued a six-month suspension, or two-months for each year of non-compliance.

The Westerly received the following statement from the “Ucluelet Guest House” owners regarding the six-month suspension:

“We respect the council’s decision and are moving forward. The property is still up for sale and we are currently not operating our business. If at the end of six-months the house has not been sold then we will re-evaluate our options at that time,” notes the message from Mike, Jennifer, Naomie and Jeff.

Anyone interested in watching council proceedings is encouraged to visit the District of Ucluelet Government YouTube channel. All meetings are now live streamed and archived.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

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READ: Ucluelet council approves development permit for 33-lot housing project

READ: District of Tofino wins court case against illegal vacation rentals

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