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‘We are powerless right now’: Revelstoke looks at new method to enforce short term rental bylaws

The new method could help enforce issues with short term rentals
Revelstoke City Hall. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

The wheels were set in motion last week that could bring a new form of bylaw enforcement to Revelstoke that may give bylaw enforcement a better chance of ticketing illegal short term rentals (STRs).

“We literally are powerless right now. And this adjudication system will assist that,” said Chief Administrative Officer, Evan Parliament.

On Thursday, Feb 2, the City of Revelstoke voted unanimously in the Committee of the Whole meeting to bring a new form of bylaw enforcement to their regular council meeting for review. The new enforcement is referred to as the adjudication method, and has been adopted by hundreds of municipalities across British Columbia. If the adjudication method is adopted, it would operate in conjunction with the current system.

For some time, the City of Revelstoke was criticized for its inability to enforce its own bylaws. There’s a simple reason that bylaw has struggled to enforce the laws, and it comes down to the offender’s presence. First, it’s important to understand the current system before comparing it to the proposed adjudication method.

“As the community has grown and developed over the past few years, so have the issues that bylaw enforcement have had to deal with,” said Joseph Marcoffio, Bylaw Enforcement Supervisor.

Marcoffio, spoke in the Committee of the Whole to explain how bylaw enforcement functions now, and how the new system would add to it. As it stands, the City of Revelstoke uses the Municipal Ticket Information System (MTI).

MTI is a long-form of bylaw enforcement, and can take up to nine months for the city to be paid for an infraction. Fines in the MTI system are relatively high – set at up to $1,000. Operating the MTI system costs between $2,000–3,000 per ticket, or more than $25,000 per year.

The MTI system starts with complaints.

Bylaw enforcement in Revelstoke, as with many municipalities, functions on a complaint-based approach. There are several methods that they use to intake complaints, including phone calls, emails, and “SeeClickFix.”

At the meeting, Marcoffio revealed some statistics for the latter.

In 2022, Revelstoke’s SeeClickFix had 441 parking, 50 camping, 27 animal control, and 189 snow-related reports. Of those reported, 62 parking, 0 camping, 0 animal control, and 16 snow-related MTIs were given. The reason for the low conversion from report to a ticket issued can be attributed to a few things, but it boils down to two main problems.

First, of the aforementioned reports, 303 parking, 34 camping, 7 animal control, and 106 snow-related incidents were gone by the time bylaw enforcement officers got there.

Second – and the biggest hangup with the MTI method – in order to proceed with the ticketing process, enforcement officers must deliver the MTI ticket to the offender directly.

For example, if someone were illegally parked, the officer would have to wait until the offender returned to their car to give them a ticket.

Another example might be if an illegally operated short-term rental (STR) was observed, without the property owner present, the ticket could not be administered. Like, for example, if the property were owned by an individual who lived in a different city, province, or even country — the City of Revelstoke currently has no method of enforcing the law to those property owners because they aren’t here to receive the ticket in-person.

The adjudication system – among other things – corrects this issue by adding what Marcoffio referred to as a new “tool” in bylaw enforcement’s tool belt.

READ MORE: In Review: Bylaw enforcement and the future of the Revelstoke Forum

Under the adjudication method, most of the early process for bylaw enforcement stays the same. When an infraction is spotted, the officers would first give a verbal warning, then a written. The adjudication method diverges from the MTI when it comes to writing a ticket. Rather than having to administer the ticket directly to the offender, officers could leave tickets where relevant — they could leave tickets in the mailbox of illegal STRs or on the dash of an illegally parked car.

The addition of the adjudication method fits within the bylaw enforcement budget and is shared with other municipalities. Within the system, issuing tickets can take up to four months, but have a maximum fine of $500. Despite the smaller fine, the addition of the adjudication system could still lead to increased revenues due to increased opportunity.

After hearing Marcoffio’s presentation, several present offered their support of bringing the adjudication method to council for further evaluation and potential adoption, including Mayor Gary Sulz.

“I think it’s a benefit for it to go forward,” offered Sulz.

The topic of enforcing STR bylaws under the adjudication method quickly became one of the main focuses in the discussion, which Marcoffio addressed.

”It would be beneficial. I can tell you that in our work in attempting to get a grasp on the enforcement for short term rentals right now — one of the largest stumbling blocks we have is that the owners of these short term rentals that are operating illegally, do not reside in the community. And there is no way for us to serve a ticket to them unless we travel to where they live, and that’s just not realistic,” said Marcoffio.

The councillors agreed to move forward with the motion to bring the adjudication to council at a later date for further evaluation with unanimous support.

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