Condo owner does battle with the AirBnB next door

Condo and apartment dwellers across the country are now doing battle in the hallways of their owns buildings, as neighbours grapple with a problem that didn't exist even five years ago. Edmonton's Ninetta Tavano is one of those caught up in this latest NIMB - not in my building - issue.

'This is my home, and here I have a hotel room, essentially now, right next to me,' Edmonton owner says

Ninetta Tavano, a resident of the View, a condominium building at the top of Grierson Hill, noticed strangers parking their cars beside her stall, and going in and out of the unit next to hers. She later learned they were renting the condo through AirBnB. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

Condo and apartment dwellers across the country are now doing battle in the hallways of their owns buildings, as neighbours grapple with a problem that didn't exist even five years ago.

Edmonton's Ninetta Tavano is one of those caught up in this latest NIMB — not in my building — issue.

At the end of August, she noticed strangers parking their cars beside her stall, and going in and out of unit next to hers in the View, a condominium building at the top of Grierson Hill.

Eventually, Tavano confronted one couple after they parked their car, and asked if they were in the right stall.

"I let them know that parking space was taken, and that they shouldn't likely park there," she said. "And they said they were guests with AirBnB, and that a man named Sam had provided them with instructions for that parking space. And that's how I found out."

AirBnB is a massive on online marketplace that allows people to rent or list accommodations around the world. Its website boasts homes for rent for a night or longer in more than 190 countries.

Sam Woods and his half-brother Neil Coady listed their empty condo in the View in August, and it has been booked ever since.

Woods said he and Coady bought the condo last year as a joint investment. After travelling and staying in several AirBnB units himself, Woods came up with the idea to rent their empty condo the same way.

Renting has been a great way to bring in extra cash, Woods said.

But Tavano was never happy having all those strangers right next door.

'This is my home'

"When I realized it was an AirBnB, I was really upset," she said. "This is my home, and here I have a hotel room, essentially now, right next to me. I was certainly upset about that. I was upset that he didn't check with me."

Woods said the condo board has sent emails asking them to stop renting the unit, because doing so is against condo board rules.

"They basically sent us an email saying they're shutting us down," Woods said from his home in Calgary. "I just kind of thought this is a nice way to supplement our income while we try and figure out how to sell this place." 

For now, that's all any condo board really has the power to do, said Steve Thomas with the Association of Condominium Managers of Alberta, a not-for-profit professional association for condo managers across the province.. 

Thomas said more and more condo boards and owners are having to deal with units in their buildings being rented out by online businesses such as AirBnB.

Many boards are discovering that their rules and bylaws are outdated.

"AirBnB didn't exist two years ago when we updated the act," Thomas said from his office in Calgary. "Even then, it was a much smaller venture than what exists now.

"It's whether or not it's a commercial venture or residence, that's not well-defined yet in any jurisdiction in Alberta. And as far as we've been able to research, it hasn't gone to Court of Queen's bench."

Few complaints in Edmonton

In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, where rental markets are tighter than in Edmonton and Calgary, city councils have looked at possible licensing for AirBnBs, though nothing has been created yet, Thomas said. 

In Edmonton, the city's bylaw department said there are no regulations in effect to deal with AirBnB, and so far they've had few complaints.

On the AirBnB profile for the condo Woods owns in the View, at 9503 101st Ave., the customer reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. 

Mark from Ottawa wrote: "The apartment is spacious and airy with a great view." He added: "The neighbour is very pleasant."

But that neighbour thinks rules are rules, and turning a condo into a full-time AirBnB rental shouldn't be allowed.

For his part, Woods said he's willing to comply with the condo board, for now.

"I don't know if I have any legal rights to fight this," he said. "This is not something that we're super passionate about. It was kind of a side project ... a short-term solution until we sell it or find a long-term renter. It's just not something I'm looking to die on a sword on, so I think we're just going to back down. There's part of me that hates to say that, because I think it's really overblown."

This week, Tavano said, there are still people coming and going from the unit next door. 

The place is scheduled to be rented from Oct. 21 until the end of the month, Woods said.

He still isn't sure about what to do with those customers — a family coming all the way from the Philippines for a visit.