Short-term rental business licence: glossary of terms

Find definitions to specific terms from the short-term rental business licence application.

Terms used in business licence eligibility

Principal residence

A principal residence is the residential address where you (the operator):

  1. Live, make your home, and conduct your daily affairs
  2. Pay and receive bills
  3. Use on government records such as income tax and Medical Services Plan

A commercial or investment property is not a principal residence.

Terms used in business owner requirements

Automated sprinkler system

Automatic sprinkler systems are heat-activated and can quickly confine a small fire to where it starts.

Starting in 2023, if your short-term rental accommodation is attached to another dwelling unit, you need a sprinkler system.

If you have an existing sprinkler system, it needs to be in working order.

To install, repair, or modify a sprinkler system, you need a fire sprinkler permit.

Learn about fire sprinkler permits

An alternative to this requirement is for the walls, floors, and ceilings that divide a dwelling unit from the rest of a building to have a fire-resistance rating of 45 minutes.

Learn about fire separation

Carbon monoxide detector

You need at least one working carbon monoxide (CO) detector on each floor of the dwelling unit if your dwelling unit has a gas appliance. This includes floors that aren't used for the short-term rental accommodation.

Get tips to install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors

City bylaws

As a short-term rental accommodation operator, you and your guests need to follow all relevant City bylaws, including about parking and noise.

Read the rules about street parking

Read the rules about everyday noise from people, stereos, and more

Dwelling unit

A legal dwelling unit is a residence that:

  1. Has been issued an occupancy permit by the City
  2. Meets zoning, building, and fire regulations

Accessory buildings such as garages or art studios are not dwelling units.

Rental 100 buildings

Short-term rentals are not permitted in Rental 100 buildings as these buildings are designed to provide long-term rental housing for Vancouver residents.

Applicants applying for a short-term rental business licence for a unit in a Rental 100 building will not be not be auto-issued a licence.

Fire alarm

A fire alarm system uses bells or speakers to alert everyone in the building about a fire emergency. Smoke detectors, heat detectors, pull stations, or fire sprinklers can start fire alarms.

You need a working fire alarm system if one of these statements applies to you:

  • Your building has more than three dwelling units
  • Your building has more than five bedrooms
  • Your short-term rental accommodation has more than 11 occupants

Your building or short-term rental accommodation may be exempt from this requirement. Contact the Development and Building Services Centre to check.

To install a fire alarm system, you need a building permit and electrical permit.

Learn about building permits

Learn about electrical permits

Smoke alarms are separate from fire alarm systems. Smoke alarms alert everyone in a suite about a fire emergency. You need an interconnected smoke alarm in each dwelling unit.

Learn about interconnected smoke alarms

Fire separation

Fire separation is the walls, floors, and ceilings that:

  1. Block fire from spreading in a building
  2. Keep a building stable during a fire for a time

Walls, floors, and ceilings that divide a dwelling unit from the rest of a building need a fire-resistance rating of 45 minutes. This applies to a secondary suite in a house.

To meet this rating:

  1. Use Type X gypsum board that's at least 15.9 mm (5/8 inch) thick on both sides of the dividing walls, floors, and ceilings
  2. Protect openings in the fire separation (fire dampers for heating vents, fire doors for doorways)

To upgrade existing walls, floors, and ceilings, you need a building permit.

Learn about building permits

An alternative to this requirement is to install a fire sprinkler system in the principal dwelling and secondary suite.

Learn about fire sprinkler permits

Interconnected smoke alarms

Interconnected smoke alarms (also called smoke detectors) are set off by any one alarm in a system, when one smoke alarm in a dwelling is activated by smoke, all smoke alarms in the dwelling and associated suites will sound.

Interconnected smoke alarms can be battery-powered or hard-wired (connected to a permanent electrical circuit). However, not all hard-wired smoke alarms are interconnected.

You need interconnected smoke alarms on every floor and in every bedroom of the dwelling unit. Interconnected smoke alarms may be purchased from a hardware store.

Get tips to install and maintain smoke alarms

Licence Bylaw

You need a business licence to operate a business in the City of Vancouver.

Read the Licence Bylaw