Court upholds $25 as reasonable move-in, move-out fee for STRs in BC.

I operate a licensed short term rental (STR) in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, in our primary residence. – My wife doesn’t like it that much as its an inconvenience but it’s a great way for us to help pay down property taxes, debt or otherwise.

Ever since the City of Vancouver created a program to license STRs in the city, as a result of thousands being listed on various rental sites like airbnb and vrbo, it has thrown stratas for a loop. Some Stratas have general rental restrictions and some don’t.  Some support short term rentals and others don’t.  Generally speaking, many stratas do not have specific bylaws that contemplate the issue.

And, as you learned from my last article, “It’s not for stratas to find municipal bylaw breaches,” where there is an absence of an express bylaw prohibiting short term rentals, they are permitted.

So, I voluntarily informed my strata that I was licensed to operate the STR and that I had guests.  They immediately proceeded to charge me a $200 move-in, move-out fee for the stays retro-actively.

A year prior and at the strata’s annual general meeting, when STRs and move-in-out fees came up in discussion among owners, I suggested that $200 for someone moving their luggage up the elevator into a furnished suite seemed unreasonable.  They’re not moving in any furniture etc., so $200 seemed steep.

Voila!  In February 2018, in a judicial review by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, in The Owners, Strata Plan BCS 1721 v. Watson, 2018 BCSC 164, the court dealt with just that issue!

In that case, a strata sought to appeal a civil resolution tribunal’s decision for a tenant whose roommate moved out and girlfriend moved in.  He was assessed $100 fee for both moves.  He argued that $100 was an unreasonable charge and won.

Paragraph 4 of the decision discusses what was upheld by the court, “The CRT held that the $100 moving fee which the Strata Corporation’s Bylaw 4(8) makes applicable “to any person moving in or out of a strata unit regardless of whether any furniture is moved”, was not reasonable when the actual cost of moves without furniture was approximately $25. On that basis, the CRT concluded that Bylaw 4(8) contravened s. 6.9 of the Strata Property Regulation, B.C. Reg. 43/2000, which permits a strata corporation to impose user fees for the use of common property if the amount of the fee is reasonable and the fee is set out in a bylaw.”

Key takeaway:

1) If you operate a furnished short term rental in British Columbia, you should consider bringing this case to your strata’s attention so that you pay a reasonable fee based on an objective standard as to what the actual cost is to the strata.  In this case, it was one hour of the property manager’s time to process a ‘Form K’, which was valued at $25.

2) If you are on a strata, you should consider the implications and ensure your bylaws are updated considering this case. The strata has an obligation to adjust its move-in and out fees for furnished rentals.

Outcome:

I brought this to my strata’s attention.  They reversed the charges and accepted the $25 per instance fee for me (they charged me $25 in and out for $50 in total, which is still wrong but I didn’t want to have another hearing about it). Surprisingly, they accepted it in my case but stated they would consider each situation on a case by case basis going forward.  This is wrong and will lead to the inconsistent application of the bylaw and cause more issues.  I presume that they want to continue to capture $200 unless they are challenged…  I intend to discuss it at the annual general meeting as I think it’s not appropriately resolved.


Click here to download a copy of the appeal (PDF File)

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