It’s About Time: The Potential Unintended Impact of the Short-term Rental Accommodations Act on Residential Tenancies

In October 2023, the B.C. Government passed new legislation aimed at better managing short-term accommodation operations across the province, and improving British Columbians’ access to long-term rental housing stock. The aptly named Short-term Rental Accommodations Act is set to break new ground on the following key areas over the next two years:

  1. Increasing fines and enforcement tools for local governments;
  2. Converting short-term accommodations into long-term housing;
  3. Developing a provincial registry and reporting requirements for short-term accommodation operations; and
  4. Creating new provincial rules and enforcement powers over the short-term accommodation market.

The impact of the Short-term Rental Accommodations Act and its accompanying regulations (many yet to be developed) remains to be seen. However at the outset, the legislation’s broad definition of “short-term rental accommodation” may have the unintended consequence of capturing various forms of residential tenancies.

The Long and Short of It

The definition of “short-term rental accommodation service” under the Short-term Rental Accommodations Act means: the service of accommodation in the property of a property host, in exchange for a fee, that is provided to members of the public for a period of time of less than 90 consecutive days or another prescribed period, if any, but does not include a prescribed accommodation service. Regulations subsequently passed in December 2023 later clarified that this definition does not include accommodations that were intended to be provided for 90 consecutive days or more, but which unexpectedly ended earlier and which could not have been reasonably foreseen to have ended earlier by the accommodation provider. The legislation captures accommodations offered over the usual suspects of short-term accommodation platforms (e.g. AirBNB, VRBO, Flipkey), as well as other forums commonly utilized by rental housing providers (e.g. Craigslist, property management company listings, and classified ads in the newspaper).

A Tale of Two Tenancies

Although the purpose of the Short-term Rental Accommodations Act is only intended to regulate short-term accommodation operations, its current, broad definition of short-term rental accommodation service may have the unintended consequence of roping in living accommodations that are considered to be residential tenancies under the Residential Tenancy Act.

The Residential Tenancy Act is the statute that governs most residential tenancies in the province, subject to certain exceptions. The legislation broadly defines a tenancy to mean “a tenant’s right to possession of a rental unit under a tenancy agreement.” The duration of a tenancy agreement is not a determining factor as to whether or not a housing relationship constitutes a residential tenancy either. Indeed, the Residential Tenancy Act expressly recognizes various kinds of tenancies over various durations:

  • Periodic tenancies: A tenancy on a weekly, monthly or other periodic basis under a tenancy agreement that continues until it is ended in accordance with the Residential Tenancy Act;
  • Sublease agreements: A tenancy agreement under which a tenant of a rental unit transfers their rights under the tenancy agreement to a subtenant for a period shorter than the term of the tenant’s tenancy agreement; and
  • Fixed term tenancies: A tenancy under a tenancy agreement that specifies the date on which the tenancy ends.

The sample form of residential tenancy agreement published by the Residential Tenancy Branch for public use (available here: Residential Tenancy Agreement (RTB – 1) ( similarly recognizes that a tenancy can be for any amount of time, including weekly tenancies, bi-weekly tenancies, month-to-month tenancies, or fixed term tenancies ending on a specified date.

So What?

So what are the implications for homeowners, landlords, and rental property managers?

Given the competing definitions of “short-term rental accommodation service” under the Short-term Rental Accommodations Act and “tenancy” under the Residential Tenancy Act, and absent further regulations specifically acknowledging the ability to enter into periodic or shorter term tenancies in British Columbia, the advertising and provision of living accommodations for a period of less than 90 consecutive days will be caught by the Short-term Rental Accommodations Act, and all of its principal residency, licensing, and reporting requirements absent prescribed exemptions.

Perhaps the next phase of regulations to accompany this new legislation will recognize that when it comes to residential tenancies in British Columbia, it isn’t “one size fits all.”

For further assistance with residential tenancy matters, please contact our practice group leader, Lisa Mackie, or a member of our Residential Tenancy Group.

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