Strata Alert: BC Supreme Court rules that vacation rentals such as AirBnB do not constitute a “residential use”

BC Supreme Court rules that vacation rentals such as AirBnB do not constitute a “residential use”


Paul G. Mendes, Partner
Phone:  604-685-4894



Nanaimo (Regional District) v. Saccomani, 2018 BCSC 752

According to recent news reports AirBnB “hosts” hit the jackpot during last month’s Vancouver Marathon. The success of home sharing sites like AirBnB and VRBO are drawing more and more homeowners wanting to cash in on empty suites and homes.  As a result, many strata corporations are struggling with how to regulate short-term vacation rentals.

I am often asked whether stratas may pass bylaws prohibiting short-term rentals.  The answer is yes, but such a bylaw amendment may not be necessary to deal with an existing short-term rental problem.

Depending on local zoning bylaws, the strata’s existing bylaws may already prohibit short-term rentals.  Standard bylaw 3 (1) (d) and (e), for example, already prevents an owner or tenant from using a strata lot in a way that is “illegal” or which is “contrary to a purpose for which the strata lot… Is intended as shown expressly or by necessary implication” on the strata plan. A strata may enforce these bylaws in circumstances where an owner is using their residential strata lot contrary to local zoning.

The decision in Nanaimo (Regional District) v. Saccomani, 2018 BCSC 752 is a helpful precedent for Stratas wishing to rely on the standard bylaws to combat vacation rentals.   In that case, the Regional District applied for an injunction to stop two homeowners from operating their waterfront property in Nanoose Bay as a vacation rental. The evidence showed that the property was booked for vacation rentals for approximately 116 days in 2017 and that the property owners were well on their way to another successful year of vacation rentals in 2018.  The Regional District became aware of the operation after receiving complaints from neighbours. As is usually the case with short-term rentals, the neighbours complained of excessive noise and traffic congestion.

When the case finally came before the court, the homeowners argued that the term “residential use” was broad enough to encompass vacation rentals. The Regional District’s Zoning Bylaw defined residential use as “the accommodation and home life of a person or persons in common occupancy.” The Zoning Bylaw also defined a “dwelling unit” as a “… self-contained unit… intended for year-round occupancy and the principal use of such dwelling unit is residential”.

Relying on these definitions as well as the dictionary definition of the word “home” the court concluded that “residential use” connotes something “non-transient and that “residential use” under the Regional District’s Zoning Bylaw does not include use for vacation rentals. As a result, the property owners were ordered to stop using their property for vacation rentals after September 15, 2018.

Stratas wishing to rely on the standard bylaws to deal with short-term rentals should take a look at the local zoning bylaws and consider whether those bylaws prohibit non-residential uses in the strata lot. If they do, the strata may have enforcement options even in circumstances where the strata does not have a bylaw prohibiting short-term uses.


WHAT WE DO: Lesperance Mendes advises and represents strata councils and strata owners on bylaw enforcement matters including short-term use restrictions and AirBnB prohibitions.  To discuss your strata lot issue, contact Paul G Mendes, Partner at 604-685-4894 or email Paul at

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE:  This article provides general information and should not be relied on without independent legal advice.