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Publié le by NmNomador

New rules create house-sitting opportunities in Vancouver

Vancouver, British Columbia is often called one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Sitting in the midst of towering mountains and along the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is known as Vangroovy, the City of Glass, Lotusland, and, yes, Rain City (but mainly in the winter!).

Vancouver’s mild winters (despite the rain), sunny summers, friendly people, laid-back lifestyle and location on English Bay are key reasons I chose to make it my home after living in other parts of Canada. And because I had an awesome long-term house-sitting deal.

False Creek, Vancouver. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net

Everyone wants to be in Vancouver

Vancouver’s mild weather caused many Canadian baby boomers to choose Vancouver as their future retirement home. While they still live in other parts of the country, many bought a condo that they plan to move to permanently in a few years. They come here for holidays and have friends and family visit, but their flats often sit empty. I was able to house-sit for months at a time in such a condo.

So many people want to live in Vancouver that the city has a housing crisis. Vancouver has the lowest rental vacancy rate in Canada and the highest costs to rent or buy a home.

Various rules are being put in place to try to calm the market and create more affordable housing. Some of these create opportunities for house-sitting.

Kits Pool, beach and downtown Vancouver. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net

The rules

In 2017, Vancouver implemented an Empty Homes Tax. The Vacancy Tax bylaw is intended to curtail the purchase of property for investment purposes, to slow spiralling housing costs, and to increase the number of properties available for rent. Basically the law says that if a property is unoccupied for more than 180 days in a year, the owner will be taxed 1% of the property’s assessed value -- meaning thousands of dollars for most properties.

Vancouver currently doesn’t allow short-term (under 30-day) rentals, so short stays via Airbnb, VRBO, and similar companies aren’t legal. However, this could change with new regulations planned for 2018. While short-term rentals will be allowed, listing them on a rental platform like Airbnb will be restricted to properties that have a valid business licence. Also proposed is a new transaction fee that the rental platform would need to remit to the city.

The new rules will also restrict the type of rental property allowed. Owners will be able to offer up rentals on their principal residence, but not on other properties. This means that the short-term rental of a vacation home, a condo purchased for eventual retirement, an investment property or nanny suite won’t be allowed. The goal is to encourage these properties to enter the long-term rental market and to improve housing options for city residents.

Opportunities for house-sitting

Because of these new rules, non-traditional homeowners in Vancouver are currently very aware of the amount of time their property sits empty, and are looking for options. House-sitting is one of them.

There is no restriction on homeowners using house-sitters for any length of time and for any type of property. A house-sitting stint of one week or six months is fine now and under the new rules. Same goes for house-sitting in one of Vancouver’s laneway homes, in a vacation property that often sits empty, or in a retirement condo of the future, like my situation.

Technicalities in the Vacancy Tax bylaw provide even more benefit if the house-sitter is a nomad. Homeowners can avoid the vacancy tax if their property is used as a principal residence for themselves, a family member, or a friend for six months of the calendar year. If an owner needs to top up the occupancy of his or her unit to reach the minimum of six months, they could secure a business licence and rent their property out in periods of at least 30 days. Or they could have a nomad housesit for them. A nomad, because they have no principal residence and therefore would technically have that property as their principal residence while staying there, should meet the definition of a friend occupying the property as a principal residence.

Olympic Inukshuk, West End Vancouver. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net

More opportunities coming

The changes in Vancouver’s bylaws and regulations mean options for house-sitting are opening up. Homeowners need to declare their property status for the Vacancy Tax for the first time in February 2018. Those hit with unwelcomed new taxes will be further primed in the future to look at innovative options to ensure their homes are occupied legally. The implementation date for the new regulations restricting rentals to principal residences is aimed for April 2018. All of these rules are controversial, and further changes can be expected.

But it’s an ideal scenario for travellers looking to stay in an otherwise very expensive city, and for homeowners wanting to both ensure their homes are well looked after and to avoid breaking any of the new rules.

Join me for a walk along Vancouver’s Seawall?

Author Bio

Johanna Read

Johanna Read is a Vancouver-based writer/photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism. She writes freelance for a variety of Canadian and international print and digital publications. Follow her on social media: Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna, Twitter @TravelEater, and Facebook at TravelEaterJohanna. Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net.

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