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Airbnb 101: Course offered in short-term vacation rentals
Ever wanted to get into the exploding vacation rental market on websites like Airbnb but didn’t know how to start? Now there’s a class for that.
A new fall course being offered at the University of Victoria is pledging to give people the tools they need to cash in on short-term rental properties – but the woman teaching it says it’s not as easy as some may think.
Susan Jones says the emphasis on the continuing education course is not just on how to list a home, but how to do it right.
“If the media is any indication there’s huge demand,” she said. “I had friends and family ask me ‘What do I do? How do I set this up?’ I thought, gee, this is an opportunity for UVic to spread out to this community.”
She said the course will cover the pitfalls and the benefits of offering rentals in a competitive market, such as evaluating safety risks as well as the people you’re renting to.
“If you’re a homeowner and you have a huge fountain in your backyard, what kind of risk is that?” said Jones. “Young children, it’s not fenced in, and so on. Those things you really need to take into consideration.”
It will also cover accounting for vacation rentals, which are currently in a sort of regulatory limbo in the eyes of the B.C. government and its municipalities.
“It is a grey area. There’s a lot of people who are quite nervous about putting their places forward into the media to say hey, I’m available,” Jones said.
Victoria City Council recently put forward two motions to move toward a regulated market, including asking the province to implement a hotel tax on short-term rentals to “level the playing field” with hotels, according to Coun. Jeremy Loveday.
“The second is to move forward with regulating Airbnbs in a way that maintains that units of housing are primarily used for housing people,” he said. “With the new sharing economy, cities around the world are trying to play catch-up and get ahead in terms of regulating these new types of business, and how they interact with our regulatory framework.”
Loveday said the popularity of sites like Airbnb and VRBO can have unintended negative consequences – especially in a city with a 0.6 per cent rental housing vacancy rate.
“That is a housing crisis, so we need to be looking at all the tools in our toolbox and saying ‘What can we do to make housing easier to find in our city?’” he said.
But Jones said the course she’s teaching isn’t meant for owners who are renting mass amounts of housing that could otherwise be used for long-term rentals.
“This is for people who have a room, a couch, a yurt, a treehouse, possibly a whole home for two weeks out of the summer when they go away for vacation. That’s who this is intended for,” she said. “I don’t think the folks who are renting a room or a tent in their backyard really affect that vacancy rate, but for sure, it’s something to consider.”
She said the vacation rental market can actually be of help to Victoria, which has struggled to house film crews working on location for months.
“We lose that because we don’t have those [rentals] available to us, so I think that’s pretty significant,” she said. “If we have to turn that away, that’s a big loss.”
Another must-know for vacation owners? How to vette renters in order to avoid incidents like last year in Calgary, where a couple faced $50,000 to $75,000 in repairs after Airbnb renters trashed their home.
“That’s the biggest one,” Jones said. “Make sure that you do your research, your due diligence, don’t just open your door to anybody.”
Loveday said city staff are working on the issue over the summer and will provide a full report to council in September.
Jones’ course will begin accepting registrations in July and begins in November.