Delta homeowners could soon need a business license in order to legally rent out their secondary suites.
Council gave first, second and third reading to a proposed new business license bylaw on Monday, Sept. 18.
The proposed bylaw would see homeowners who rent out their secondary suites paying $50 a year for a business licence. Unoccupied secondary suites, or those used by immediate family, would be exempt.
Secondary suites are not mentioned in the current business licence bylaw at all, though it does state that a business licence is not required when renting two rooms or less.
According to Hugh Davies, Delta’s manager of property use and compliance, this addition is part of a wider effort to support bylaw enforcement in the municipality.
“Bylaw enforcement is tasked with dealing with secondary suites, we monitor the parking — a big issue for neighbourhoods related to suites,” Davies said. “We also deal with issues in the suites related to standards of maintenance.”
“That enforcement actually costs the taxpayers money.”
Davies said the business licence fee for secondary suites would go towards general bylaw enforcement.
Coun. Heather King said she was surprised homeowners would only pay $50 for a business licence, “considering all the work you’ve got to do.”
“If you’re pulling in $800 to $1,500 a month for a secondary suite, you would think that $110 for a business licence for a secondary suite would be appropriate,” she said.
Delta chief administrative officer George Harvie said the municipality attempted to institute a $300 fee but met “considerable resistance from secondary suite owners.”
“It’s not just the money from the secondary suite, it’s about the fact that it gives Mr. Davies more of a legal tool, once the business licence is there, to take action,” Harvie said.
“We’re trying to make the licensing costs such so that it hopefully won’t be impacting the renter,” he added.
Other changes in the bylaw are also focused on helping fund enforcement costs and give the bylaw officers more tools for enforcement.
For example, under the current bylaw, companies operating a dumpster business in Delta have to pay one licensing fee. The new bylaw would have those businesses pay the licence fee, which covers the first 10 dumpsters in Delta, then an additional $5 for each dumpster after that.
The bylaw also includes regulations that dictate how the bins should be maintained. These regulations include ensuring dumpsters in public laneways be locked after use, carry the name of the company that services them and are free of graffiti.
“I noticed when I go to other municipalities I see clean dumpsters, and I kind of wonder if some of the other municipalities have rules that say you can’t have graffiti and swear words in the back alley,” Davies said. His assumption was that to save money dumpster companies would bring defaced dumpsters to Delta, where there are no regulations about the aesthetics of local bins.
Delta firefighters, in addition to bylaw officers, are brought forward for issues relating to bins, especially in regards to dumpster fires.
“The action that’s required by bylaw enforcement or the fire department … far exceeds the $97 they currently pay for a business licence,” Davies said.
The bylaw also increases the basic fee for a business licence from $97 for a business of up to five people to $110, about a 13 per cent increase. There was also an increase in licence fees for specific businesses in the Scott Road corridor to match the licensing fees in the adjacent area of Surrey.
According to Davies, fees haven’t been increased since 2001. Delta will still have some of the lowest fees in the region, tying with Maple Ridge at $110.
Other changes serve to make the business licence bylaw easier to navigate and to update regulations to reflect current enforcement practices, as well as to give bylaw officers better enforcement tools.
“We’ve often found that we don’t have the necessary tools under zoning to take them to court, so this bylaw will give some of the tools that bylaw officers will require to get the job done,” Davies said.
The proposed bylaw will now go to a public consultation period, where residents have three weeks to provide input on the proposed changes. The municipality will provide information on the proposed bylaw through newspaper ads, liaising with Delta business associations and on a page on Delta’s website.
Davies is hoping the new bylaw will be in effect by Nov. 1, 2017.