British Columbia

Vancouver strata wins 5-year battle against Airbnb operator

A real estate agent who has managed several Airbnb listings in an East Vancouver building for years has been ordered to stop using his condos as short-term rentals. 

Condo owner Zulkider Jiwa says properties were rented out for long-term stays

This Airbnb listing is one of several properties managed by Zulkider Jiwa in a building in East Vancouver near False Creek Flats. (Airbnb)

A real estate agent who has managed several Airbnb listings in an East Vancouver building for years has been ordered to stop using his condos as short-term rentals. 

According to a recent decision from the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, condo owner Zulkider Jiwa argued the rentals should be allowed because they were for stays 30 days or longer and therefore complied with city bylaws. 

Ulrike Rodrigues, a strata council member who has fought against Jiwa's Airbnb listings for the last five years, says she and the rest of the strata were relieved to hear the tribunal's decision.

"We're all pretty darn excited," Rodrigues said. 

The strata does not have bylaws that prohibit short-term rentals, the decision says. However, the bylaws do specify that units can only be used as private dwellings and not for commercial purposes.

Ulrike Rodrigues has been fighting against short-term rentals in her building for five years. (CBC)

The tribunal decided that, regardless of length of stay, Jiwa's suites were clearly intended for transient occupants instead of permanent residents, with listings that resembled hotel advertisements more than tenancy offers. 

The tribunal ordered Jiwa to immediately stop using the suites as temporary lodgings. 

'Airbnb has attracted fantastic tenants'

Jiwa says the tribunal's decision took him by surprise because he had complied with the city's bylaws and limited his guests to those renting for 30 days or more.

Many were in the city for months at a time, Jiwa says, visiting as professors, students or on work contracts.

"Over the course of the last few years, Airbnb has attracted fantastic tenants," Jiwa wrote in an email. 

'Strangers in the hallways'

Rodrigues says she and the other condo owners in the building felt differently about the situation, however.

She first voiced her opposition to Jiwa's Airbnb listings in 2015, well before the City of Vancouver instated stricter laws in 2018 to regulate rentals shorter than 30 days

The building where the rentals were listed is an older structure built in 1975, Ulrike says. (CBC)

"When you move into a building and you're surrounded by neighbours and you're in a nice neighbourhood, you don't expect to be hearing rolling suitcases all hours of the night," she said.

"You don't expect to see strangers in the hallways."  

Jiwa says the units have since been rented out on long-term leases, and he intends to keep them rented that way. 

New city bylaws in 2018

The city says it's aware of the properties at the centre of the tribunal's decision, but it can't share any information about them because they are under investigation.

The city also says the owners had either obtained or recently applied for a long-term rental business licence for those properties, which would allow rentals of 30 days or longer.

People who violate the city's short-term rental rules can be subjected to fines of up to $1,000 per offence. 

Calling for more restrictions

Rodrigues says Jiwa's properties could have housed Vancouverites instead of catering to tourists.

"We do still have a housing crisis in Vancouver," she said. "We have a lot of people who need a place to live." 

The city's 30-day provision is a loophole, Rodrigues says, and she would like the city to limit the number of nights per year that a property can be rented out to temporary tenants. 

The city says it met with Rodrigues last year to discuss her feedback, and some of it was incorporated into program updates made last fall. 

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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