Condo owner furious after tenant rents out unit on Airbnb

An Ottawa condo owner currently living in Europe says he's furious Airbnb isn't taking his concerns seriously after his suite was rented out without his permission.

Kasra Rasaee says Airbnb isn't taking his concerns seriously after Rideau Street unit appeared online

Kasra Rasaee said he never gave his tenant permission to rent out his Rideau Street condo while he's away on business in Germany, and that he was shocked to find it listed on Airbnb. (Airbnb)

An Ottawa condo owner currently living in Europe says he's "furious" Airbnb isn't taking his concerns seriously after his suite was rented out without his permission.

In January, Kasra Rasaee found a tenant to lease his fully-furnished condo at 200 Rideau St. for six months while Rasaee is in Berlin on business.​

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It wasn't long afterward, however, that Rasaee found an online listing for the suite on Airbnb — complete with photos of his bedroom, his bathroom, his kitchen and his living room.

"I didn't expect this individual to go out and sublease my unit to total strangers that I've never met before, or haven't authorized to stay at my place," Rasaee said.​

Kasra Rasaee is upset that a listing with pictures of his condo are on Airbnb, suggesting it's for rent. (Submitted )

User making $60 profit per night

Rasaee was first notified about the problem by his building's security team. They notified him something unusual was going on after watching a stranger use Rasaee's fob to get into the building.

He did a quick search online and within five minutes discovered his unit had been listed on Airbnb. 

"I was able to find my unit with all the decoration — my bookshelf, my map from Peru, even my motorcycle helmet, my kitchen utensils," Rasaee said.

Rasaee said photos of his belongings posted in the listing prove the condo is "100 per cent" his unit. (Airbnb)

The Airbnb listing offers a "business travel ready luxury condo" in downtown Ottawa for $126 a night, and boasts about its proximity to such local attractions as Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal and Elgin Street.

That's more than $60 in profit per night compared with what Rasaee is charging for rent.

Other listings in Ottawa, Montreal

It's one of a number of listings put online by an anonymous, verified Airbnb user called "Stay."

The user — who has uploaded a modified City of Ottawa logo instead of a profile photo — was renting out at least 20 units, mostly in Ottawa and Montreal.

CBC News reached out to "Stay" for comment but did not receive a response.

A message bounced back saying the user is "not receiving messages."

CBC has not been able to independently verify that "Stay" and the person named on Rasaee's lease are the same individual.

'Unable to mediate or assist,' Airbnb says

As soon as he found his suite listed on Airbnb, Rasaee said he called the company to report the matter and prepared photos and documents to prove he owns the condo.

It took a week for Airbnb to reply. 

"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 Rasaee. "We recommend reaching out to your tenant to discuss and resolve this matter directly."

Rasaee received this email from an Airbnb customer service representative on March 8, 2018. It said the company was 'unable to mediate or assist' with the complaint and suggested he 'resolve the matter directly' with his tenant. (Kasra Rasaee/Airbnb)

He then contacted his tenant directly, who denies he's renting out the unit, Rasaee said.

Rasaee wants Airbnb to make people prove the place they're renting is theirs or that they have permission from their landlord to rent it.

CBC asked Airbnb if it would ever take down a listing when an owner complains it's being subleased, but the company didn't respond directly to the question. 

"All hosts on Airbnb must certify that they will comply with local rules before they list their space," the company wrote in a statement. "We also have a hosting responsibilities page that reminds people to check their local laws and regulations and includes additional information and resources."

'They don't feel guilty'

Rasaee isn't satisfied with that answer. 

"Airbnb is not even taking action or responsibility, not even the slightest," he said. "They don't feel guilty. They don't feel ethically responsible.

"It seems like they're just willing to take money from anybody that's willing to pay — even if it's criminal."

Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Stephanie Burns of the organized fraud unit said it's a civil matter, not a criminal one.

Eviction the only recourse, lawyer says

Condo lawyer Rod Escayola said the only recourse for landlords in Rasaee's position is to hand an eviction notice to the tenant.

It's a process that takes at least 20 days if all goes smoothly, but can take longer if the tenant fights back and the matter goes to trial.

However, if Rasaee's tenant is in fact breaking Ontario's Residential Tenancies Act, Rasaee is well within his rights to evict, Escayola said. "It would be illegal for a tenant to sublease a unit without the consent of the owner."

Rod Escayola is a lawyer at Gowling WLG who focuses on condominium law. He said it's against Ontario's Residential Tenancies Act to sublease a unit without the landlord's permission. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

It's also against the act for a tenant to sublease a unit for a profit, he added, and there may be an additional breach of the condominium corporation's rules.

Rasaee said his condo doesn't allow short-term rentals such as Airbnb.

If that's the case, the condo board may also have the right to get involved under the Condominium Act, Escayola said. But ultimately it's up to the homeowner to sort out the issue.

"At the end of the day it's the landlord responsible for the unit," Escaloya said. "They have to ensure that the rules of the condo corporation are abided."