A big property owners group in British Columbia has officially filed suit against both the Province of British Columbia and the City of Victoria over the new short-term rentals legislation that's set to come into effect on May 1.

The lawsuit was filed by the West Coast Association for Property Rights, which operates as the Property Rights Association of BC (PRABC). On its website, the group describes itself as "a dedicated association of property owners across British Columbia, united by a shared commitment to safeguarding the rights and investments associated with property ownership."

The Property Rights Association of BC says it was formed in October 2023 in direct response to the provincial government's introduction of the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act, which is also known as Bill 35.

According to the group's petition to the court, which was filed on April 10, its membership consists of 290 people "including both individuals and corporations who are the owners of residential and non-residential properties in British Columbia that are lawfully operated and used for the provision of short-term rental accommodation services."

The group is seeking a judicial review of the legislation and compensation for those who will be affected by the legislation when it is set to come into effect next month.

"We believe the provincial government has overstepped their legal authority in imposing legislation that negatively impacts licensed and lawfully operating businesses and property owners," said Orion Rodgers, President of the PRABC, in a public statement. "We have listened to the concerns from our affected members and other stakeholders and support them and their decision to bring legal action against this unjust Act. If the provincial government's Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act does infringe on the vested property rights of lawfully operating short term rental owners in BC, creating a tangible financial loss for our constituents, there must be compensation for these citizens."

In his biography on the PRABC's website, Rodgers says he purchased a condo in Victoria that was specifically zoned for short-term rental use, which allowed him to pay the mortgage while he traveled and ultimately led to him and his wife starting a business managing short-term rentals.

Much of the PRABC's membership have similar stories and share the belief that the new changes infringe upon their rights.

The changes introduced via the legislation restricts short-term rentals to only a homeowner's principal residence while also establishing a provincial registry, strengthening compliance and enforcement, and increasing penalties for infractions. The changes also removes previous "non-conforming use" — grandfathering — rules that allowed short-term rentals to operate in spite of local regulations.

The Juliet at 760 Johnson Street in Victoria, another building that will be affected by the new legislation.The Juliet at 760 Johnson Street in Victoria, another building that will be affected by the new legislation.(Chard Development)

As previously reported by STOREYS, as soon as the new legislation was introduced, numerous property owners began trying to sell the secondary residences they were using as short-term rentals — particularly in Victoria and Kelowna, where there are numerous residential buildings comprised of units, often referred to as "micro-lofts," that are designed for short-term rental use.

In the lawsuit, the City of Victoria is also listed as a respondent because it is set to cancel what the PRABC describes as "lawfully-issued business licenses" — to comply with the legislation and its May 1 enactment date. The PRABC is seeking an injunction or court order prohibiting the City from doing this, at least until the current lawsuit is resolved.

Joining the Property Rights Association of BC as a petitioner is Amala Vacation Rental Solutions Ltd. and its owners, Angela Mason and Ryan Sawatzky.

According to the petition, Amala is a short-term rental accommodation service company based in Victoria that provides reservation, management, and maintenance services. The business has been operating since 2016 and was managing as many as 90 short-term rentals as of October 2023. Amala claims that the total has dropped to 65 as a result of the provincial legislation and that it has been forced to lay off many of its employees. Its website says it is no longer accepting new clients as a result of the new legislation.

As of publishing, no official responses to the petition have been filed by either the Province or the City of Victoria, but they have 21 days, from the day the petition was filed, to do so.