Airbnb has been in the news of late–and of course typical media will report the ‘horror’ stories first.  It certainly may seem like a great source of fast cash for folks who own properties in popular travel destinations, but renting out a home to strangers can indeed be perilous.

After Global’s report on Airbnb aired January 21st, we met some friends/clients for breakfast the next day. They happened to bring up their own recent experience:

They listed their investment property for sale, and had challenges with the tenant in place not allowing access for showings. Eventually, the tenant vacated the suite, and the owners placed an ad for a new tenant on Craigslist, and had a flurry of responses. They diligently went thru the references and qualifications of the applicants, and ended up renting to a man that for the purposes of this article, we will call “Tom”.

Tom’s references were great, they checked out, and he signed a typical Residential Tenancy Agreement for a month-to-month tenancy, paid the damage deposit, and got the keys. Note that rentals are permitted in the building, and the standard agreement specifies that any subletting must be permitted in writing by the Landlord.

Tom was made aware that the property was to be listed for sale during the tenancy, and he indicated his understanding of this arrangement. Unfortunately, the owners had the same difficulty with Tom not being respectful of requests for showings, despite the 24 hours or longer notice period he was given for each request.

Additionally, in short order, the owners began receiving complaints from the strata about the tenant.

Ultimately, on one occasion where the owners were granted permission for a viewing, they attended with the listing agent. They found the suite to be clean, but very sparsely furnished – no personal items, two extra mattresses, and a basket of tourist-y brochures on the counter.

Off to the Internet went the owners. You guessed it–their suite was listed on Airbnb.

Remarkable was the fact that Airbnb would not take down the listing at the owners’ request. They would, however, only respond to the person who posted the rental in the first place–Tom!

After receiving legal advice, the owners told Tom he had to go, and while he did leave the suite in good condition, he did not argue when they said there was no way he’d receive the last months’ rent as compensation for being given notice. They did not hear back from Tom on that count.

No wonder they were getting complaints from Strata; the building bylaws stipulated clearly that there were no short term rentals permitted.

Things to consider

Strata Bylaws

Firstly, Airbnb warns potential clients looking to rent out their apartments to first check the bylaws where they live. This would be prudent for anyone looking to rent any strata property that they own. Rentals are nearly always addressed in the Bylaws, and even if they are not, you may find yourself in trouble with the strata corporation if your rental generates problems within the building.

Insurance – Get informed!

If your house or apartment is to be listed as a short term rental (and it is permitted if you own Strata property) be sure that your insurance policy provides coverage for such a rental! And, what are the risks?  You could end up with your own horror story! Check out this article HERE.

Consideration of your Neighbors

Well, all of the above kind of culminate in being a good neighbor, don’t they? We wouldn’t want short term rentals in our townhome complex, and likely would not have purchased in a complex that permitted them.  Think of the people coming and going, the state of the common areas like garbage room and parking garage, courtyards and gates left open. Who is my neighbour? Will they look out for my kids and dog if there’s a problem? Could I count on them if I needed to? Are there party buses full of people coming to visit?

Since all the hype in the news surrounding short terms rentals (and Airbnb is just one such avenue) some Vancouver stratas aim to crack down on short-term rental sites, and some strata councils are getting serious about the issue, posting signs in buildings that warn owners of potential fines for short-term rentals.

To Airbnb’s credit, in a statement to Global News, the company said it is working with the city of Vancouver to address some of the issues around short-term rentals. The city has struck a working group to determine the scope of the problem.

Who can blame property owners for wanting to cash in on such a business model?

We’d love to know what YOU think. If you lived in a strata complex that permitted rentals, how would you feel about short term rentals on an ongoing basis?

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