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Short-term rental restrictions panned by Okanagan resort property owner

Melissa Watkins may have to sell her property and lose her business due to BC's new policies on short-term rentals.
Image Credit: Jasmine Cottage Airbnb Page

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this story was published, we have learned new information that changes this entire story, effectively making it incorrect and should not be relied upon. The vacation rental home this story focuses on is zoned appropriately for short term rentals and changes should have minimal effect beyond marketing and consumer confusion.

We apologize for our error. For the sake of disclosure, we are leaving the story as it appeared at first publication.


The BC government’s crackdown on short-term rentals has left some property owners out in the cold, without answers, and with financial hardship waiting on the horizon.

Melissa Watkins purchased a cottage at the La Casa resort on Westside Road in April 2022. Since then, she has had to deal with both a lack of tourism from wildfires and now short-term rental restrictions on her property which is located on a commercial vacation approved area.

The tighter restrictions are an attempt to remedy the current housing crisis and make more long-term rentals available on the market.

Because her property is in a C5 zoning area, it has restrictions that would make a long-term rental alternative virtually impossible, Watkins told

“It's in a location where you can't live permanently,” she said. “Zoning states you have to leave the house every 28 to 29 days for a couple of days... We're in the middle of nowhere on the west side with no public transportation. And, to be really honest, I didn't buy it to put long-term renters in and to deal with the BC rental guidelines that really don't support owners.”

READ MORE: Commercial Airbnbs cost Thompson-Okanagan renters hundreds of extra dollars every month

Watkins said she and her fellow cottage owners won't be able to rent their properties on a long-term basis and will instead have to sell and lose their businesses. 

“If they take away our short-term, I will be forced to sell,” she said. “It's not going to help the pool of long-term renters. It would be to sell and make a financial loss.”

This won’t just hurt the property owners, but also the local housekeepers, contractors, builders, maintenance managers and plumbers they employ, Watkins said.

Beyond the financial and economic damage, the uncertainty and stress has put significant strain on her's and her peer's wellbeing.

“It's affecting many not only financially, but mentally as well,” she said. “The stress of it, and knowing I've got a mortgage locked in for five years thinking I was safe. I can't just get up and leave the mortgage… I have to pay them for the next five years whether I can short-term (rent) or not.

“Owners I know are already considering, or have considered, selling. They're not going to do long-term. So, it's not going to help long-term rentals, and again, we're not in (the right) location. We've got no public transportation; we've got no great roads where we are. It's only a seasonal location. So, it's very stressful.”

The damage has begun for many of the resort property owners, with many of their guests already cancelling bookings.

“As soon as it was announced, myself and the owners I know out in La Casa haven't had a booking since. We usually get long weekends and Christmas and things like that. It just shut down, like people are too scared to come.”

Melissa moved to the Okanagan from Alberta last year to manage her La Casa cottage and improve her guests’ experience.

“This year we moved down specifically to look after my rental... so I could go above and beyond for my guests who come to the Okanagan,” she said. “Everything's been taken away, between the fires and the move and the fear of the short-term rental (restrictions), it's all hit really hard.”

The move has also shown Watkins the stark difference in costs between the Okanagan and Alberta. What’s more, she isn’t convinced that the new restriction will actually help relieve the current economic crisis. 

“It's been really hard,” she said. “I bought this place for me to enjoy, as well as my family and my friends, and that's been taken away from us. To me, the government's taken away my rights as a homeowner, what I choose to do with my home that I bought in a resort specifically to share it with others."

Watkins said her guests usually come in large groups and want to stay in a shared house over multiple hotel rooms. She also encourages guests to visit local wineries, restaurants and markets, which benefits small businesses.

“We're not trying to take away from hotels. We offer something unique,” she said. “I think it's going to be detrimental to tourism and the economy of the Okanagan, I really do. Because it's not creating long-term rentals. It's not creating that at all.”

Since the announcement from the provincial government, Watkins said she hasn’t heard from any representatives or been offered an ounce of support or information from the regional district. When she and others in her situation have tried to get answers, they've been met with clashing narratives and mixed-up information.

After a night of emailing at least 15 different officials and representatives, Watkins said she finally received some advice from Central Okanagan West regional district director Wayne Carson.

“He's fighting for us,” she said. “He's the first person that stood up and said you're unique, you're in a zone that should be short-term rental.”

But for now, the future is looking uncertain for Melissa.

“I get up one day and I think well, I'll just have to sell it for a loss and pay up the mortgage and all the penalties. But then, I don't want to do that. I love my place,” she said. “I'm passionate about the place, that's why I moved down here. To fear that I'm going to lose it is pretty stressful.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Georgina Whitehouse or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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