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Sooke, Canada Short-Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Sooke, Canada

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What are Short-Term Rental (Airbnb, VRBO) Regulations in Sooke, British Columbia?

Short-term rentals through platforms like Airbnb and VRBO have become increasingly popular in Sooke and across British Columbia. However, new provincial rules that came into effect on May 1, 2024, are significantly restricting short-term rentals in many communities, including Sooke. Here's what you need to know about the current short-term rental regulations in Sooke.

Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in Sooke

If you want to operate a short-term rental in your primary residence in Sooke, you'll need to apply for a business license from the District of Sooke. The application process takes about 10 business days. You'll need to provide:

  • Completed application form
  • Floor plan of the space used for the rental
  • Owner authorization form if you don't own the property
  • Applicable fees

Certain types of businesses may require additional documents like health inspection certificates. Check the District of Sooke website for full details on the business license application process.

It's also important to check your property's zoning to ensure short-term rentals are a permitted use. Sooke's zoning regulations vary in different areas of the community.

Keep in mind the new provincial rules mean you can only short-term rent your primary residence, plus one additional unit on the same property. This has made it very difficult for property management companies that were operating multiple short-term rental units to stay in business.

One Victoria-based company, Amala Rental Solutions, has already had to lay off most of its staff due to the new restrictions. The company has filed a legal petition challenging the constitutionality of the new rules, arguing they violate property rights. However, the provincial government is moving ahead with the regulations as planned.

So in summary, if you want to start a short-term rental business in Sooke, make sure it is limited to your primary residence and any legal secondary suites. Obtain a business license, follow all local bylaws, and be aware of the strict new provincial rules. With the regulations getting tighter, it remains to be seen how many short-term rentals will continue to operate in the community going forward.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Sooke

To legally operate a short-term rental in Sooke, you must obtain a business license from the District of Sooke. The application process takes approximately 10 business days.

To apply for a short-term rental business license, you will need to submit the following:

  1. Completed business license application form
  2. Floor plan of the space used for the short-term rental
  3. Owner authorization form (if you do not own the property)
  4. Applicable license fees

Certain types of businesses may require additional supporting documents like:

  1. Professional certificates (if applicable)
  2. Proof of incorporation and Notice of Articles (if incorporated)
  3. Health inspection certificate from Island Health (if applicable)

You can apply for your short-term rental business license either in-person at the Sooke Municipal Hall (2205 Otter Point Road) or online using the BizPaL Business Permits and Licences portal. Payment of the license fee is required at the time of application.

The license fee varies depending on the type of business. Contact the Sooke Municipal Hall to determine the correct fee amount for your short-term rental. Licenses must be renewed annually.

Failure to obtain a valid short-term rental business license can result in fines of up to $3,000 per day under Sooke's bylaws. The province has also increased the maximum fines that regional districts can impose for bylaw offences to $50,000.

It's important to note that short-term rental operators in Sooke must also prominently display their business license number in any online rental listings. This is to assist with enforcement of the licensing requirement.

For further questions about short-term rental business licenses in Sooke, contact the License Inspector at 250-642-1634 or refer to the District of Sooke website.

Required Documents for Sooke Short-Term Rentals

To apply for a short-term rental business license in Sooke, you will need to submit the following required documents:

Completed Business License Application Form: This form collects key information about your short-term rental business, including the owner's name and contact details, the rental property address, and a description of the rental space. You can obtain the application form from the District of Sooke Municipal Hall or download it from their website.

Floor Plan: You must provide a detailed floor plan of the space that will be used for the short-term rental. This helps officials verify that your rental unit complies with relevant building codes and bylaws. The floor plan can be hand-drawn or computer-generated, as long as it clearly shows room dimensions, exits, and other key features.

Owner Authorization Form: If you are not the property owner, you must submit a completed Owner Authorization Form. This document confirms that the property owner has given you permission to operate a short-term rental business on their property. The form must be signed by the owner and submitted along with your business license application.

Additional Supporting Documents: Depending on the nature of your short-term rental, you may need to provide additional documents such as:

  1. Professional certificates (if you are providing any special services that require certification)
  2. Proof of incorporation and Notice of Articles (if your business is incorporated)
  3. Health inspection certificate from Island Health (if you are providing food service)

Check with the District of Sooke to determine which additional documents may be required for your specific situation.

Remember, as of May 1, 2024, short-term rentals in Sooke are restricted to your principal residence plus one additional unit on the same property, due to new provincial legislation. This means you cannot short-term rent investment properties or multiple units, unless they are on your primary residence property.

Once you have gathered all the required documents, you can submit your short-term rental business license application either in-person at the Sooke Municipal Hall or online through the BizPaL portal. The licensing process typically takes about 10 business days.

Sooke Short-Term Rental Taxes

When operating a short-term rental business in Sooke, there are two main taxes that apply:

Provincial Sales Tax (PST): The PST rate on short-term accommodations in British Columbia is 8%. This tax applies to rentals of less than 30 consecutive days. As a short-term rental operator, you must register to collect PST, charge it on the rental price, and remit it to the provincial government.

Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT): The MRDT is an additional tax on short-term accommodations that municipalities can choose to implement. In Sooke and other parts of British Columbia, the MRDT rate is 3%. This tax also applies to rentals under 30 consecutive days and is charged on top of the 8% PST. You must register to collect the MRDT along with the PST.

So in total, you will need to charge and remit 11% in taxes (8% PST + 3% MRDT) on your short-term rental revenue in Sooke. These taxes are calculated on the total purchase price, which includes the nightly rate plus any additional guest fees like cleaning, service, and resort fees. However, the PST and MRDT amounts are not included when calculating the federal GST.

It's important to note that starting May 1, 2024, short-term rentals in Sooke are restricted to your principal residence plus one additional unit on the same property, due to new provincial legislation. Ensure you obtain a business license and comply with all local registration and licensing requirements to avoid penalties.

Deductions and write-offs

As a short-term rental operator, you can deduct eligible expenses incurred to earn rental income from your taxable profits. Some key deductible expenses include:

  1. Advertising costs
  2. Insurance premiums
  3. Mortgage interest
  4. Property management fees
  5. Property taxes
  6. Repairs and maintenance
  7. Strata/condo fees
  8. Utilities

You can also claim capital cost allowance (depreciation) on the rental property itself and any furniture/equipment used in the rental. However, be aware that under new federal rules proposed for 2024, you may not be able to deduct expenses if your short-term rental is not compliant with local regulations.

Proper record-keeping is essential to support your expense claims. Consult with a qualified tax professional to ensure you are claiming all eligible deductions and complying with tax laws. By understanding the applicable taxes and available write-offs, you can budget accordingly and maximize the profitability of your Sooke short-term rental business.

British Columbia Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

In addition to Sooke's local regulations, short-term rental hosts in the community must also comply with province-wide rules that came into effect on May 1, 2024. These new provincial regulations automatically apply to municipalities with a population over 10,000, which includes Sooke.

The key requirement is that short-term rentals are restricted to the host's principal residence, plus one additional unit on the same property such as a secondary suite or accessory dwelling unit (e.g. laneway house). This means investment properties can no longer be used for short-term rentals in most cases.

Sooke hosts must obtain a business license from the District and prominently display their license number in any online listings. The province has established a dedicated Compliance and Enforcement Unit to monitor adherence to the rules. Fines for non-compliance can reach up to $3,000 per day for individual hosts, and even higher for corporations.

Later in 2024 or early 2025, the province plans to launch a short-term rental registry. This will collect information to assist with enforcement of the regulations. Local governments like Sooke will share data with the province on business licenses to identify any non-compliant listings.

There are some exemptions to the principal residence requirement, such as for strata hotels and motels that provide hotel-like services and have a history of short-term rental use. Purpose-built resorts may also be exempt in some cases. However, the vast majority of short-term rental properties in Sooke will be subject to the new rules.

The province has stated the changes are intended to crack down on speculators and return more units to the long-term rental market amid an ongoing housing crisis. So Sooke hosts should carefully review the regulations to ensure they are in full compliance to avoid penalties. The days of operating short-term rentals in investment properties appear to be largely over.

Does Sooke Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions in online forums like Reddit, it appears that Sooke and the province of British Columbia are cracking down on short-term rental regulations, but enforcement has been slow to ramp up so far. The new provincial rules restricting short-term rentals to principal residences only took effect on May 1, 2024, but as of late May and early June, many non-compliant listings were still active on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO.

However, the lack of immediate widespread enforcement doesn't mean hosts can continue operating STRs against the rules long-term. The province is establishing a dedicated Compliance and Enforcement Unit to monitor adherence and is coordinating with local governments like Sooke to identify illegal listings. Sooke requires short-term rental operators to have a business license and display the license number on all listings. Fines for non-compliance can reach $3,000 per day.

So while Sooke may have been more Airbnb-friendly in the past compared to some other jurisdictions, the attitude is shifting. The province wants to crack down on STRs to free up more long-term rental housing. Enforcement is expected to increase in the coming months as the province launches a short-term rental registry to assist with identifying rule-breakers.

In summary, although many hosts seem to still be operating STRs in Sooke despite the new rules, I believe enforcement will tighten significantly through the rest of 2024. The provincial government appears committed to reining in short-term rentals that don't comply with the principal residence requirement. Sooke is aligning with this stance through its business licensing rules and coordination with provincial regulators. Hosts who continue to skirt the rules are taking a big risk of fines and removal of their listings as enforcement ramps up. Sooke is becoming much less Airbnb-friendly than in the past.

How to Start a Short-Term Rental Business in Sooke

If you're looking to start a short-term rental business in Sooke, here are the key steps to follow:

Ensure your property complies with new provincial rules: As of May 1, 2024, short-term rentals in Sooke are restricted to your principal residence, plus one additional unit on the same property like a secondary suite or accessory dwelling. You can no longer short-term rent investment properties or multiple units, unless they are part of your primary residence. Double-check that your planned rental space meets these criteria to avoid penalties.

Obtain required permits and licenses: You must obtain a business license from the District of Sooke to legally operate a short-term rental. The application process takes about 10 business days. You'll need to provide a completed application form, floor plan of the rental space, owner authorization form (if you're not the property owner), and pay the applicable license fees. Certain types of rentals may require additional documents like health inspection certificates. Apply for your license well in advance of when you want to start renting, to allow sufficient processing time. Gather all required documents before starting the application to avoid delays.

Prepare your space for guests: Ensure your short-term rental is clean, well-maintained, and equipped with all necessary amenities. Consider hiring a professional photographer to take high-quality photos of the space for your online listing. Develop a comprehensive house manual with instructions on using appliances, accessing Wi-Fi, etc. Put yourself in your guests' shoes. Provide items you'd appreciate as a traveler yourself, like ample towels, toiletries, cooking basics, and tourist info on Sooke. Small welcoming touches can lead to positive reviews.

Create a compelling online listing: Sign up on popular short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. Craft an attention-grabbing title and description that highlights your space's best features and amenities. Use your professional photos to showcase the rental. Set a competitive nightly rate based on similar Sooke listings. Be responsive to potential guest inquiries to maximize bookings. Airbnb's algorithm favors hosts who reply quickly. Use the platform's saved responses feature to efficiently answer common questions.

Implement a smooth check-in process: Decide how you'll handle key exchanges and guest arrivals. If you can't always meet guests in-person, consider investing in a lockbox or smart lock system to enable self check-in. Make sure your check-in instructions are detailed and clear. Send your guest a message a day or two before arrival with check-in details and ask if they have any last-minute questions. This shows you're an attentive host and can prevent issues from arising during their stay.

Keep accurate records and comply with tax laws: Maintain a detailed accounting of all rental revenue and expenses. You'll need to collect and remit 8% PST and 3% MRDT on your bookings. You can deduct eligible expenses like mortgage interest, insurance, and cleaning fees from your rental income at tax time. Use an accounting software or app to easily track your short-term rental finances. Store digital copies of all receipts in case of a tax audit. Consult a tax professional to ensure you're claiming all possible deductions.

By following these steps and tips, you'll be well on your way to launching and running a successful short-term rental business in Sooke. Just remember to stay compliant with all local and provincial regulations to avoid fines and keep your business operating smoothly.

Who to Contact in Sooke about Short-Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

If you have questions about Sooke's short-term rental regulations or zoning requirements, here are some key contacts and resources:

Sooke Business Licensing: Contact the License Inspector at 250-642-1634 for questions about obtaining a short-term rental business license or the application process. You can also email info@sooke.ca.

Sooke Planning Department: For inquiries related to zoning and land use regulations that may impact short-term rentals, contact the Sooke Planning Department at 250-642-1620 or planning@sooke.ca.

Sooke Bylaw Enforcement: To report a suspected illegal short-term rental operating without a license or in violation of zoning rules, contact Sooke Bylaw Enforcement at 250-642-1634 or bylawenforcement@sooke.ca.

Provincial Compliance and Enforcement Unit: The province has established a dedicated unit to enforce the new short-term rental rules that restrict rentals to principal residences in many communities including Sooke. You can report suspected violations to the CEU via their online tip form at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/short-term-rentals/ceu.

In addition to contacting local officials, short-term rental hosts in Sooke may find the following community resources helpful:

Sooke Short-Term Rental Operators Group on Facebook: This private group is a place for Sooke short-term rental hosts to ask questions, share experiences, and stay updated on changing regulations. You can request to join at https://www.facebook.com/groups/sookestrs/.

Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce: Consider joining the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce to network with other local business owners, access educational resources, and stay informed on issues impacting the business community. Learn more at https://sookeregionchamber.com/.

Airbnb Community Center: The Airbnb website has a community forum where hosts can ask questions and connect with other operators. Check out the Sooke-specific threads at https://community.withairbnb.com/t5/user/viewprofilepage/user-id/271945.

By utilizing these contacts and community resources, you can get your questions answered and ensure your Sooke short-term rental business stays compliant with all local and provincial rules. Regulations are changing quickly, so it's important to stay informed and connected with other hosts in the area.

What Do Airbnb Hosts in Sooke on Reddit and Bigger Pockets Think about Local Regulations?

Based on discussions in online forums, it appears Sooke Airbnb hosts have mixed feelings about the new provincial and local short-term rental regulations:

On Reddit, one host expressed frustration that the new rules restricting short-term rentals to principal residences are making it very difficult for property management companies to stay in business. They mentioned a Victoria-based company, Amala Rental Solutions, has already had to lay off most of its staff due to the changes.

Another Reddit user pointed out that as of late May 2024, many non-compliant listings were still active on Airbnb and VRBO in Sooke and surrounding areas, despite the new rules taking effect May 1st. They believe the lack of immediate enforcement means hosts are continuing to operate illegally for now.

However, some hosts on Reddit acknowledged that the province plans to launch a short-term rental registry later in 2024 to assist with identifying rule-breakers. They expect enforcement to ramp up significantly in the coming months as the registry comes online and the province's new Compliance and Enforcement Unit gets to work.

On the Bigger Pockets forums, one Sooke host shared that they recently had a guest cancel last-minute because the host was told they'd face a large fine if they continued to operate their short-term rental. This suggests some hosts are starting to comply proactively to avoid penalties.

Another Bigger Pockets user expressed hope that fines for non-compliant listings will be backdated to May 1st once enforcement increases. They want to see hosts who are flagrantly breaking the new rules face consequences.

Overall, the sentiment among Sooke hosts seems to be a mix of frustration with the changes, attempts to skirt the rules in the short-term, and resignation that they will need to comply eventually as enforcement tightens. Hosts who relied on short-term renting investment properties appear to be most negatively impacted. Those renting rooms in their primary residence will likely have an easier time adapting to the new reality.

Disclaimer: While we here at BNBCalc strive to keep all of our city regulation guides updated and accurate with all the latest local laws, we still do not suggest using them as your sole or primary source for local regulations. We also do not recommend you rely on the third-party sources we link to or reference, and we are not responsible for any of the information on these third-party sites. These guides are for entertainment purposes only and only provide basic information and should not be considered as legal advice.

We highly recommend directly contacting the responsible parties for each city and hearing what their officials have to say. Ultimately, it's your responsibility as an investor to ensure you fully comply with the local laws, and it's best to speak with professionals before making an investment decision.

⚡️
Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.