It's currently illegal to rent out your home on sites like Airbnb in Vancouver unless you have a hotel or licensed bed and breakfast.

But as anyone who has perused the site knows, thousands of people are skirting the rules.

Now, a national organization called Fairbnb, comprised of a coalition of hospitality unions and other groups, is releasing a plan to crack down on illegal use of the site. 

Their idea: make Airbnb responsible for the listings on their site, and make sure they follow the law.

Thorben Wieditz from the Fairbnb coalition says that while he believes Vancouver has taken the right approach — by proposing to limit short term rentals to primary residences and prohibit the use of secondary suites or laneway houses — the policy requires teeth to be effective.

"The regulatory approach in Vancouver stops shy of actually ensuring that their policy will be enforceable. This is why we issued this report — to highlight this quite big loophole," he said.

"It allows the city to put forward a regulatory framework that looks good, has all the right ingredients but it also allows Airbnb to further grow their unlawful listings — meaning multi-listing hosts and properties held by investors — without being held accountable."

Proposes permit system

Wieditz said that according to Fairbnb, the ideal approach would be to require that all hosts have a license or permit, to ensure all units being offered up are legal, safe and are principal residences.

"As soon as you generate a permit number, you have to ensure websites like Airbnb are only allowed to list, advertise, and profit off of properties that have a permit number."

Wieditz said this approach could help avoid situations that have played out in other cities, where in some cases landlords and investors have snapped up multiple units and turned them into full time rental properties.

"This policy would ensure that any available units that could potentially be on the long term rental market for Vancouverites are being placed back into the long term rental market," he said.

Wieditz said this approach is being considered by cities like Toronto and San Francisco.

The City of Vancouver has not yet commented on the report, but is set to hold public hearings on a new law that could allow some short-term rentals on Airbnb later in the fall.