COLUMN: Unregistered rentals pose problems to municipalities

Lately there has been a lot of discussion on how municipalities can contribute to affordable housing with limited funding sources.

COLUMN: Unregistered rentals pose problems to municipalities

Lately there has been a lot of discussion on how municipalities can contribute to affordable housing with limited funding sources. Fortunately for our city, most rental owners pay for the proper permits, fees and insurance for the benefit of the renter and the community. In Nelson, a number of factors affect the availability of affordable housing including the high price of housing and rentals as well as unregistered vacation rentals and B&Bs.

Municipalities have limited sources of funding derived from property taxes, federal and provincial grants, and city fees, etc. These sources of funding are spread though the city budget to provide building and infrastructure upgrades along with a range of public services from snow plowing to recreation. Most citizens and businesses do not want a substantial increase to taxes to cover additional costs associated with unregistered rentals.

As discussed on CBC Radio, municipalities lack new sources of funding and could be dealing with some of the hidden costs associated with the absence of fees from unregistered rentals. Everyone likes a good deal when renting places for vacations, but the use of unregistered vacation rentals and B&Bs does not help the bottom line with the increased cost of rentals along with fewer rentals available.

When there are unregistered vacations rental housing and B&Bs, no funds go to the municipality. Unregistered B&Bs and vacation rentals result in some owners taking a chance so they can rent for more money without paying for proper insurance, permits and water and sewer fees.

As well, more problems can arise in the community from unregistered rentals. When people come from out oft own to rent these places, they may not be aware of our city bylaws. Renters may party all night, making noise and even in one situation, lighting a bonfire in the backyard. The owners of these illegal rentals may not be aware, present, or even live anywhere near the “rental.”

Then it becomes a problem for neighbours and police, as our by-law officers only work during daylight hours. There are difficult problems in investigating the complaints, as the “renters” usually leave the city, making it difficult to charge the unregistered “rental” owner without adequate evidence. So while the “renter” may begetting a good deal from these rentals, it is not a good deal for the community or the neighbourhood along with other problems such as increased traffic and less parking.

Not to mention a lot of these rental houses and B&Bs can sit empty for a while, again driving up rental prices and leaving fewer houses or places to rent. This makes a difficult situation for a new person or family who wishes to live here, buy or rent accommodations, and hold a job in order to contribute to the community, if all the rentals or housing is too expensive or not available.

As stated, having unregistered rentals could affect an increase in rental prices and less availability of low-cost rentals. Also costs could be downloaded to the municipality from the increased expenses for the fire department, bylaw officers and police officers in investigating complaints. Fortunately for Nelson, most of the community rental owners follow the bylaws and pay for the proper permits, fees and insurance for the benefit of themselves, the community and the municipality.

Nelson city councillor Robin Cherbo shares this space weekly with his council colleagues.