British Columbia

Neighbour complaints led Vancouver to sue over Airbnb rental

Vancouver's chief licensing inspector says complaints from neighbours in a Fairview Slopes townhome complex led to the city's first lawsuit against an Airbnb operator accused of being a rogue hotelier.

City's chief licensing inspector says more court cases in the works for renegade hoteliers

This is a sample of a listing on airbnb. This rental is in British Columbia. (Airbnb)

Vancouver's chief licensing inspector says complaints from neighbours in a Fairview Slopes townhome complex led to the city's first lawsuit against an Airbnb operator accused of being a rogue hotelier.

The City of Vancouver has filed a B.C. Supreme Court petition against East West Investments Ltd. and director Heather Chang, the owners of a two-bedroom suite in the 700 block of West 7th Avenue.

The city wants an order prohibiting the rental of the suite for periods of less than one month.

'Security issues, garbage, noise'

Chief Licensing Inspector Andreea Toma said more lawsuits may be in the works against homeowners who are essentially running commercial enterprises in the form of black market hotel suites.

Vancouver's chief licence inspector Andreea Toma says complaints from neighbours led to a lawsuit against a short-term unit on Airbnb. (CBC)

She said other people in the complex named in the lawsuit contacted the city to complain about short-term rentals.

"What we heard from the community is that there was concern specific to that townhouse complex in regards to the common space: security issues, garbage, noise," Toma said.

"There were things that were not being respected as per the strata bylaws."

The unit cited in the lawsuit is listed for nightly rental on several different short-term websites.

According to the petition, a city employee booked the suite for two nights through Airbnb.

Existing zoning bylaws prohibit the rental of dwelling units for periods of less than 30 days, unless they are part of a licensed bed-and-breakfast or a hotel.

'What are the chances?'

Toma points out that the city is not suing Airbnb.

In fact, staff are currently drawing up new regulations which would allow a homeowner to get a licence for short-term rental of space in a principal residence.

As part of that process, Airbnb is working with the city to support people the website says are looking to earn a "modest, supplemental income" by renting out rooms in their homes a few nights each month.

By contrast, Toma says other online services have ignored the city's requests for cooperation.

The new rules won't allow the rental of a secondary residence, laneway home or investment property. Toma said the idea is to use the bylaws to prevent short-term rentals from eating into the affordable housing stock.

Toma said the townhome in the lawsuit is one of eight in the complex owned by the same people.

"It's really the two units that are continually being advertised," she said. "Both of those units were being used as long-term rental and now they're not. What are the chances that the other six will be flipped over as well?"

Toma said the city has approached other operators and persuaded them to comply with the existing regulations.

But she said officials have heard overwhelmingly from members of the public who want more enforcement of the rules.

The owners of the suite named in the lawsuit have yet to file a response and declined comment. None of the claims have been proven in court.

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