Illegal Rentals Could be Bad for Business

People who operate illegal rentals in Tumbler Ridge could be in violation of one of the town?s bylaws and the illegal rentals could be bad for legitimate businesses such as the Tumbler Ridge Inn, The Twilight Lodge, the town?s two Bed & Breakfasts, and the town?s newest lodge, The Wilderness Lodge.

How do you know if a rental is legal or not? You must read and understand Land Use Bylaw No. 12 and Business License Bylaw No. 445 and all the amendments to each bylaw. The most common violation of these bylaws is the renting of a home on a daily or weekly basis. ?If you are renting out your home on a daily or weekly basis, this can be considered a hotel/motel. Tumbler Ridge is not zoned for hotels/motels in the residential areas, therefore, these types of rentals are considered illegal. A B&B falls under the home-based business bylaw. Although a B&B is regulated under the local bylaw it must also follow provincial standards as it relates to fire extinguishers and smoke alarms. These types of businesses must also comply with the rules outlined in Bylaw No. 445 which includes obtaining a proper business license,? said Shorty (Gordon) Smith, Bylaw Enforcement Officer of the District of Tumbler Ridge.

Some people might not see what all the fuss is about if they are just renting out a room in their house on a daily or weekly basis but bylaws are in place for good reason. ?Not only are these types of rentals illegal, if too many of these illegal operations exist, they can take business away from legitimate businesses like hotels, lodges and B&Bs, and if the legitimate businesses can?t make enough money to stay in business, they may be forced to close operations,? said Shorty. Shorty explains the dangers of illegal rentals as well. ?The dangers of renting out rooms or homes without obtaining a proper business license, is the District is aware of what goes on in a building, such as overcrowding and parking issues. Overcrowding can lead to serious fire hazards and other safety related issues,? said Shorty.

Although it is hard to estimate how many illegal rentals there are currently in town, Shorty said he has dealt with approximately six illegal rentals to date that involved persons renting rooms in their homes, or their entire homes, on a daily or weekly basis. ?Most people just don?t know the bylaws. After I explain to the people that they are in violation of these bylaws, most people understand and cease operations,? said Shorty.

But for people who do understand the bylaws and choose to ignore them, a Bylaw Enforcement Officer does have the ability to enforce compliance. ?If a person chooses to ignore the bylaws and cease operations, I contact the town?s legal council for direction. At that point, the District of Tumbler Ridge takes control of the situation and there are a few steps it can take to achieve compliance. First, a letter from the Bylaw Enforcement Officer or the town?s legal council is sent to the person advising them that they are not in compliance with the bylaws and that they must cease operations. If that fails, then Mayor and Council have to make the decision whether to commence legal proceedings and take the person to court to have a judge shut them down,? said Shorty.

If you are currently operating a rental, whether it is a room in your home, your entire house or a B&B, and you want to know if it is legal, copies of Bylaws No. 12 and No. 445 can be read at Town Hall. Shorty also recommends that residents make sure they understand all of the town?s bylaws whether it relates to rentals or something else. ?A bylaw is a law and it is up to each individual to check the town?s bylaws before they start a business, build a garage, or even put up a fence. The bylaws exist to provide conformity so all residents can live in peace in the community and so the community will be attractive on the whole,? said Shorty.