Ucluelet is following in its neighbours footsteps and cracking down on unlicenced vacation rentals.
The district is working on a three-pronged funding approach to a new bylaw enforcement program that will see business licence fees, property taxes and small craft harbour funds go towards paying a full-time bylaw officer’s salary this year.
The district has drawn up a bylaw enforcement strategy, which Ucluelet’s municipal council rolled out during a public meeting last week, that identifies the bylaw officer’s top priorities in three tiers.
The top tier involves pursuing illegal short term rentals and conducting regular business licence inspections to ensure everyone working in town is licenced to do so.
The second tier involves typical summer woes like illegal camping and public drinking, and the third tier involves neighbourly concerns like noise complaints, unkempt properties and animal control.
Ucluelet’s CAO Andrew Yeates explained the strategy will be “fluid” and the bylaw officer will shift focuses as needed.
The strategy also states the district will not wait for complaints to enforce its bylaws, as has been the practice in the past, and will instead take a proactive approach towards enforcement with the bylaw officer seeking out infractions.
Coun. Marilyn McEwen said Ucluelet has signed onto the same HostCompliance web-based software that Tofino is using to make sure every local property being advertised as an accommodations online has a business licence.
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques noted bed and breakfasts are permitted in residential homes and suggested council has no desire to axe that allowable use, but rather to ensure all proper licences are in place.
“It’s a very difficult issue because, you can understand, if a young family has a house and they want to rent out a room, you can see financially, it’s better for them to rent out nightly than monthly,” she said.
“It’s about finding a balance and giving people good reason to want to rent monthly versus nightly. Because you can really see why folks do it.”
She added any residence being used as a short term rental, must have a homeowner or caretaker living onsite full-time.
“We learned that from Tofino 15-20 years ago,” she said.
“They were having so many problems. You look around at other municipalities and try and learn and every other house is an empty-house-vacation-rental, so people didn’t know their neighbours and they lost their volunteer core base and that type of thing. So, we realized way back then, we didn’t want that. As a community we need to have our volunteers; we need to know who our neighbours are.”
Coun. Mayco Noel said vacation rentals are hard for local homeowners to do without.
“The fact is, it’s not cheap to live in Ucluelet,” he said. “If you have a suite, or the ability to make a suite quite easily, there’s a high likelihood you’re going to do a nightly rental. Not necessarily for 12 months of the year, but you may just take advantage of that peak season.”
Ucluelet local Laurie Skene suggested the district send notifications to homeowners to let them know business licences are needed to rent out rooms before the bylaw officer starts cracking down on them.
“I think there’s people that are renting out that may not realize, or be fully aware, that they should have a licence,” she said.