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Whistler Short Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Whistler, Canada

Starting a Short Term Rental Business in Whistler

Whistler is one of the most popular destinations in North America for short-term rentals, with roughly 20% of all properties listed on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO1. The resort town attracts over 2 million visitors annually who come for world-class skiing, mountain biking, golfing, hiking, and vibrant nightlife5. This booming year-round tourism industry combined with a high cost of living makes Whistler an attractive place to invest in a vacation rental property.

In 2022, the average Airbnb in Whistler generated $46,032 in annual revenue, with an average daily rate of $422 and 68% occupancy5. The earning potential varies by property type, with luxury chalets grossing up to $202,000 per year compared to $102,000 for a typical 3-bedroom condo1.

However, there are important licensing requirements, zoning rules, taxes, and other regulations that hosts must follow to legally operate a short-term rental in Whistler. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has some of the most robust STR oversight in Canada, aimed at balancing the needs of property owners, visitors, and local residents2. Hosts looking to capitalize on Whistler's infinite tourist season need to carefully navigate the regulatory landscape.

Short Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Whistler

Operating a short-term rental in Whistler requires obtaining a business license from the RMOW12. Running tourist accommodation without the proper license is illegal and can result in substantial fines of up to $500 per day3. This applies whether properties are managed directly by owners or through a property management company2.

The only exemptions are for properties that are not listed online, generate less than $2,500 in annual revenue, and are not located in tourist-zoned areas4. Rentals of 28 days or longer are also exempt from the licensing and tax requirements4.

Hosts who list their property exclusively on platforms like Airbnb or alluraDirect that collect and remit taxes on their behalf will not see much change under the new rules4. But owners who list properties themselves or on sites that do not handle taxes will need to register to collect the 8% Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and 2% Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) on their own4.

Required Documents for Whistler Short Term Rentals

To apply for a Tourist Accommodation business license, property owners need to:

  • Verify the property is specifically zoned for 'tourist accommodation' use by checking the RMOW zoning map23
  • Include all units owned in the application if managing multiple properties2
  • Complete the online application and pay the licensing fee of $190 plus $25 per unit3

A one-time, nonrefundable application fee applies to all new licenses3. The annual renewal costs $165 plus $10 per additional unit operated by the same owner4.

Consideration also needs to be given to any registered covenants, rental pool agreements, or strata bylaws that may restrict the use of the property for short-term rentals2. Many tourist-zoned properties in Whistler have rental pool covenants that limit owner usage to prioritize availability for visitors1.

Whistler Short Term Rental Taxes

Real estate in Whistler is subject to property tax based on the assessed value3. If the property is used as a rental, income tax on the earnings and GST may also apply3.

Non-resident owners earning rental income must withhold 25% of the gross rent each month to remit for income taxes3. Filing a tax return allows deducting eligible expenses and potentially receiving a refund of excess tax paid3.

As of October 2018, all short-term rentals in British Columbia, including Whistler, are required to charge the 8% PST and 2% MRDT on stays under 28 nights4. This additional 10% tax must be collected and remitted monthly, unless the booking is handled by a platform that does this automatically like Airbnb4.

Whistler-wide Short Term Rental Rules

Whistler's zoning divides housing into designated areas for tourist accommodations and residential use1. Properties in residential zones cannot be used for short-term rentals to visitors under any circumstances23.

The RMOW provides an interactive map on its website to look up the zoning for each address5. Nearby communities of Squamish and Pemberton have implemented similar zoning restrictions on short-term rentals5.

Some tourist-zoned properties are also subject to rental pool covenants that dictate how often the owner can use the property themselves1. Phase 2 covenants are the most common in Whistler and limit owner usage to a total of 56 days per year, split between 28 days in summer and 28 days in winter14. The rest of the time, the property must be made available for short-term visitor rentals.

All short-term accommodations in Whistler must meet the building requirements and operational rules outlined in the Tourist Accommodation Regulation Bylaw3. This includes things like installing interconnected smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, providing fire safety plans to guests, and adhering to occupancy limits3. The bylaw also gives the RMOW the power to inspect properties and issue violation notices to non-compliant operators3.

Does Whistler strictly enforce STR rules?

Yes, the Resort Municipality of Whistler is known for its strict enforcement of short-term rental regulations23. The RMOW bylaw officers proactively monitor for illegal rentals, respond to complaints, and conduct property inspections2. Violators can face fines of $1000 per day for the first offence, $2000 per day for the second offence, and $4000 per day for third and subsequent offences2.

Compared to other cities in Canada, Whistler is actually quite welcoming of legal short-term rentals in properly zoned areas. 20% of the total housing stock is currently used for tourist accommodations1. However, the municipality is focused on prohibiting short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods to protect long-term housing for local residents2.

Online forums on Reddit and Bigger Pockets suggest that most hosts are able to successfully operate in Whistler if they obtain the required business license and follow the zoning rules3. The general consensus is that Whistler is more STR-friendly than larger cities like Vancouver, which has much stricter regulations3. However, several hosts note the importance of carefully reviewing strata bylaws and rental pool covenants that can significantly restrict owner usage rights in certain complexes3.

How to Start a Short Term Rental Business in Whistler

  • Confirm your property is zoned for tourist accommodation by checking the RMOW zoning map3
  • Review the title documents for any rental pool covenants that may limit owner usage14
  • Complete the online business license application and pay the $190 fee plus $25 per unit3
  • Register to collect the 8% PST and 2% MRDT taxes on stays under 28 nights4
  • Ensure the property is equipped with the required safety equipment like smoke alarms3
  • Create your listing on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, or hire a management company15
  • Implement a system for cleaning, maintenance, and restocking supplies between guests1
  • Provide check-in instructions, house rules, and local area guides for your guests1
  • Comply with all RMOW regulations and be prepared for periodic property inspections23
  • File and pay your PST/MRDT and income taxes accurately to avoid penalties34

Who to contact in Whistler about Short Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

For questions about short-term rental regulations, zoning, taxes, and business licenses in Whistler, contact:

Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW)

What do Airbnb hosts in Whistler on Reddit and Bigger Pockets think about local regulations?

There are a few relevant discussions from Whistler hosts on Reddit and Bigger Pockets:

  • Most agree that Whistler is generally welcoming of short-term rentals compared to other cities in Canada, as long as you have the proper tourist zoning and business license3
  • Some mention that it's critical to review the title documents for any rental pool covenants that can severely restrict owner usage, particularly in Phase 2 properties134
  • Hosts recommend using a reputable local property management company to handle licensing, taxes, cleaning and maintenance if you don't live locally13
  • Several note that the fines for illegal short-term rentals in residential zones are substantial at up to $4000/day for repeat violations23
  • Most believe that the strict enforcement of STR rules hurts Airbnb but benefits owners of legal tourist-zoned properties due to less competition3

In summary, Whistler offers an attractive opportunity for short-term rental operators who can successfully navigate the licensing process and zoning regulations. With the potential to generate over $40,000 in annual revenue, it's no surprise that 1 in 5 properties are operating as STRs15.

But hosts need to do their due diligence on property-specific restrictions and be prepared for active enforcement of the rules by the municipality. By following the requirements and best practices outlined above, STR owners can tap into the huge demand from Whistler's 2+ million annual visitors and enjoy a profitable business venture.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.