A landlord in Vancouver is urging the provincial government to enhance regulations for short-term rentals after being taken aback to discover that his tenant was unlawfully listing his suite on Airbnb.
David Wojtowicz received an email in January from his building manager informing him about an unlawful short-term rental happening in the stylish Olympic Village neighborhood. Wojtowicz was renting out his furnished one-bedroom suite for $3,000 per month.
Wojtowicz found out that his tenant had taken away all his belongings and had put the apartment on Airbnb. The building’s management does not allow renting for short periods, and there is a fine of $1,000 for each day of violation.
Having faced difficulties dealing with the City of Vancouver and Airbnb in order to close down the operation, Wojtowicz is now urging the province to implement more rigorous regulations for short-term rental operators, ensuring that their listings are in compliance with the law.
Wojtowicz informed CBC News that Airbnb exists as an entity that operates somewhat like an underground facilitator for illegal short-term rentals.
“There are certain fixes that are necessary.”
On Friday, the province restated its plans to pass a law during the fall session to tackle the issues related to short-term rentals.
“In a written statement, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon expressed that local governments require further resources to tackle the difficulties associated with ensuring compliance and enforcement of local bylaws pertaining to short-term rentals, and we are actively fulfilling those requirements.”
The living space was in disarray.
According to Wojtowicz, the issue began in January of last year.
After receiving a call from the building manager, he went to investigate the situation in the suite. According to his account, he discovered two British tourists who claimed to have paid approximately $1,200 for a four-night stay.
Wojtowicz described the apartment as being in a state of disarray.
According to Wojtowicz, the tenant’s belongings were taken away, leaving only the furniture belonging to the owners. The living room had a mattress, clothes were hanging from the sprinklers on the ceiling, and cigarette butts were found in the garbage.
Wojtowicz and his spouse came across the Airbnb listing, which had already received six reviews in the previous month and seemed to have additional bookings lined up. The management of this listing was taken care of by a company specializing in short-term rentals.
The tenant’s lease, which Wojtowicz shared with CBC News, clearly states that no short-term rentals are allowed and the tenant must follow strata bylaws, which also do not allow short-term rentals.
‘There’s no teeth for anything’
Wojtowicz stated that he reached out to Airbnb and the City of Vancouver regarding the removal of the listing. However, both entities were unable to take action despite the couple’s insistence that it was operating in violation of the law.
According to him, the responsibility was shifted by both the city and Airbnb.
“He expressed the lack of capability or effectiveness in any aspect,” he stated.
The City of Vancouver only allows short-term rentals if they are in a person’s primary residence. Renters must have permission from their landlord and the strata in order to obtain a licence, which is required.
The city confirmed that it recommended the owner to directly contact Airbnb in response to CBC News inquiries.
The city has also mentioned that they have a specialized team responsible for handling short-term rentals. This team takes proactive measures to investigate any instances of non-compliance with regulations. Individuals who fail to comply with the city’s regulations may be subject to fines of up to $1,000.
When Wojtowicz’s spouse reached out to Airbnb, they were advised to contact the company responsible for managing the listing.
In an email response, a representative informed him that Airbnb is an internet-based platform and does not possess, run, oversee, or govern accommodations.
When questioned by CBC News, Airbnb stated that this issue is a private affair concerning a landlord and tenant, and the responsibility for enforcement rests with the City of Vancouver.
The company mandates that all hosts in Vancouver must supply a registration number, and it regularly shares this information with the city every month.
The province is actively assisting municipalities.
Wojtowicz says he changed the fobs and the locks to prevent future travellers from staying at the suite. The property was taken off Airbnb in late January.
The issue was not resolved by the Residential Tenancy Board until July, after which Wojtowicz claims to have reached a private settlement with the tenant.
Wojtowicz expresses support for short-term rentals, but emphasizes the need for additional regulations to ensure their compliance with the law.
He desires for the province to adopt regulations similar to those recently enacted in Quebec. These regulations compel companies like Airbnb to collaborate with local governments in order to ensure that their listings are licensed and compliant with the law.
Kahlon expressed that such stories are frequently heard in B.C. and mentioned that the province is taking measures to assist municipalities in ensuring compliance with local bylaws.