Are STRs legal in Nelson?

If you are operating a short-term vacation rental within a residential zone (R1, R2, R3, R4, R6, MU2, MU3, MU4, CD1, CD6) you must have a ‘short-term rental’ business licence. This licence must be renewed annually and can be obtained from City Hall at Development Services (2nd floor). application form

If you are operating a short-term vacation rental within a commercial zone (C1), you must have a ‘tourist accommodation’ business licence. This licence must be renewed annually and can be obtained from City Hall customer service representatives (first floor). application form

Non-compliance with zoning or the lack of a business licence can result in a fine of $500 per day.


In the spring of 2016, Council directed staff to undertake a public consultation and planning process to develop regulations for short-term vacation rentals. Staff undertook 200+ hours of policy research; had numerous conversations with other communities; developed a dedicated webpage and posted surveys to gather public feedback; evaluated 350 survey responses, dozens of emails and phone inquiries; and held a stakeholder meeting as well as a public town hall meeting.

Staff presented the results of the public feedback as well as recommendations to Council on July 18 and August 8, 2016 and bylaw amendments were approved by Council on December 5, 2016. The new regulations came into effect on January 1, 2017. The regulations include:

  • 3 types of STR licences – annual, summer (May 1 to August 31), and 31-day

  • There is a cap of 110 annual licences and 40 summer licences. There is no cap on 31-day licences, however there can only be one per property per year.

  • Maximum of three licences in total per block (combined annual and summer) – doesn’t include 31-day licences

  • 3 types of STR dwellings – guest homes, guest rooms and guest suites (secondary or detached secondary suites)

  • Except for summer licences, they all require you to be the primary resident. This is to accommodate those renting to students where the students leave for the summer, and it allows them to do short-term rentals for the summer months.

  • The manager of Development Services has the ability to approve or not approve summer licences.

  • We have pretty much maintained the existing parking requirements, however we have allowed for one stall to be provided on an adjacent property or across the lane.

  • Each property can have up to one annual licence and another licence of less than 6 months (summer or 31-day licence).

  • All annual licence holders must have a Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism membership.

  • All licences require a $500 deposit, except for the grandfathered licences (of which we have 7).

  • Grandfathered licences are also exempt from cancellation if property ownership changes, and from the requirement to list the business licence number, number of parking spaces and maximum guest occupancy on booking platforms.

  • All licences require a building and fire inspection every three years.

  • Maximum of 2 adults per guest room, 4 per guest suite and 6 per guest house

  • Must have a contact person who responds within 15 minutes to phone calls and lives within 30 km of the property

  • STR operators need to apply by December 15 each year to ensure that they maintain their spot in the queue for the next year. After December 15 you will then be subject to the caps – 110 annual/40 summer.

Benefits of regulating STRs include ensuring a fair, level playing field and retaining the ability to protect the integrity of residential neighbourhoods by imposing certain restrictions. The regulations establish a robust and transparent licensing mechanism, while still retaining discretion for exceptional circumstances. Communities around the world are grappling with the complexities of accommodating short-term rentals (which are a commercial use) in residential areas. City Council has made it a priority to accommodate these operations for the benefit of visitors, residents, and neighbourhoods, while at the same time mitigating the potential detrimental impacts on communities.