Ottawa

Property manager finds proof of Airbnb rental scam

Dan Dore, the owner of an Ottawa property management firm, believes he finally has proof a tenant is illegally running an Airbnb business out of a downtown condo without Dore's permission.

Dan Dore inspected his Rideau Street unit this week, says he found copies of reviews inside

Dan Dore, owner of Dore Property Management, said he's wasted a lot of time trying to prove a tenant was renting out a unit on Airbnb, violating the rules of his contract. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

After a long game of "cat and mouse," the owner of an Ottawa property management firm believes he finally has proof a tenant is illegally running an Airbnb business out of a downtown condo without the owner's permission.

According to reviews on Airbnb for the suite at 200 Rideau St., the tenant had been running a covert operation, telling guests to pick up their keys from a lock box attached to a railing outside a Tim Hortons coffee shop a block away.

They were also told to enter the building through the parking garage to avoid security at the front desk, according to the reviews, and to keep a low profile.

It's a huge concern.- Dan Dore,  owner of Dore Property Management

It's the second complaint this week about a verified Airbnb host in Ottawa who goes by the name "Stay" and is currently renting out 23 units, mostly in the capital and Montreal.

In at least two cases, CBC News has learned the unit is being subleased for a profit without the owner's permission, ultimately breaking the lease and condo building rules.

The host has not responded to CBC's requests for comment.

Property manager Dan Dore searches condo unit for proof of Airbnb rental 0:52

'He makes everyone who uses Airbnb look bad'

"It's a huge concern," said Dan Dore, owner of Dore Property Management. "We fully expect the people who are on the lease are the people actually living in the unit. It's a secure building."

Dore is now starting the process to evict the tenant — the only recourse for a landlord in his position under the Ontario Tenancies Act — after finding what he believes is evidence that guests were paying money to sleep there. 

The eviction process takes at least 20 days — and if the tenant opposes, the dispute could go to trial.

'Getting the keys was a little tricky seeing as they are in a lock-box attached to some random railing nearby,' wrote one Airbnb guest in their review of a Rideau Street condo unit they rented from user 'Stay.' (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

"It's quite unfortunate," said Dore. "He makes everyone who uses Airbnb look bad."

Unlike several other Canadian cities, there aren't any municipal regulations in Ottawa tackling the growing problem of short-term rentals. 

Dore and the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association are calling for change, however. They want Ottawa to adopt similar rules to those in place in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. — rules that require residents to obtain a city licence to rent out their primary residence short-term. 

Safety concerns

At least two condo buildings on Rideau Street are struggling with the problem.

In one case, security at 234 Rideau St. had to call police this past October when intoxicated Airbnb guests allegedly lit fireworks inside a unit.

Reid Property Management has now equipped its security desks with incident report forms to fill out anytime they catch short-term rental guests inside.

As well, new plaques have been installed on the building's intercoms, stating these types of rentals are not allowed. 

The condos buildings at 200 and 234 Rideau St. installed signs to remind tenants short-term rentals are not allowed in the building. If people break the rule, it's a violation under the Condominium Act. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

'It's a cat and mouse game'

In Dore's case, he leased a two-bedroom condo to a long-term tenant on behalf of the condo's owner, who lives overseas.

One year in, he found out from security that unknown guests were entering the building using the fob to access the building's main door.

Dore said he confronted the tenant, who admitted he was subleasing the unit and didn't know there was any problem with that.

There would always be a story.... The biggest issue is, we need proof.- Dan Dore

He promised not to do it again, but that didn't happen, Dore said. Instead, Dore said he kept getting calls from security about fishy activity. 

The tenant then told him his parents and friends had been visiting, Dore said.

"It's a cat and mouse game," said Dore. "There would always be a story.... The biggest issue is, we need proof."

'Not abiding by the rules'

It wasn't until Tuesday afternoon Dore claimed he finally obtained the evidence he needed to take action.

He gave his tenant 24-hour notice he was entering the unit, and once inside, was able to confirm it was the same condo being advertised on Airbnb. The decorations matched, he said, and there were handwritten reviews inside the unit detailing the experiences of other guests.

CBC News was allowed to come along and observe the inspection from the hallway outside the unit.

"It's quite unfortunate they're not abiding by the rules and regulations of the building," said Dore.

Dan Dore matched the photos from this Airbnb posting with the condo unit he's managing at 200 Rideau St. (Airbnb)

'It's a problem that it's time to deal with'

The City of Ottawa has said it's hiring a consultant to study existing regulations around Airbnb.

That work won't be presented to council until after the election, and some say that's too late.  

Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, has been talking to the city for months about the need for short-term rental regulations. 

"It's a problem that it's time to deal with," he said, adding he's been providing information to the mayor's office about what rules other cities are adopting.

The most important change he wants is allowing people to rent out their principal residence only.

This condo building on Rideau Street doesn't allow Airbnb rentals — yet it's still happening inside. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Licence requirement

"The [other] big one for us as well is that you need to have a licence," said Ball. "This is not uncommon if you're going to be in business, to have a licence to do business."

For example, in Victoria, a licence costs between $200 and $2,500, depending on the unit. In Vancouver, homeowners caught listing units on short-term rental websites without a licence face a fine of up to $1,000 for each infraction.

Ball also wants Airbnb to only advertise hosts who have a valid city licence. 

"If they choose to advertise hosts without a licence, they should be accountable and responsible," he said.

Right now, Airbnb is unable to mediate or assist when it receives notification from a condo owner that their unit is being subleased without their permission. 

"Unfortunately, as an online platform, we are not privy to the offline agreements you may have made, so we are unable to mediate or assist," Airbnb wrote to Ottawa condo owner Kasra Rasaee after he filed a similar complaint. 

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