Airbnb host must pay evicted tenant $40,000, court rules

There are hundreds of short-term rentals on the North Shore, but enforcement is weak.

A West Vancouver landlord has been ordered to pay his former tenants more than $40,000 after evicting them from their rental unit to put the property on short-term rental sites like Airbnb.

But Eric Limoges says the province and municipalities are not doing enough to protect tenants from illegal evictions in the first place.

Limoges and his family had rented a house on Taylor Way for around 10 years. The property was sold and three days before Christmas 2021 they received an eviction notice telling them they had two months to vacate as the new owner intended to move in.

Months after Limoges and his family packed up and moved into a new rental home in Delbrook, no one had moved into his old residence, he said. When Limoges went to serve his former landlord, Heung Ryeol Yim, with the papers for a dispute at the Residential Tenancies Division, he met a new tenant at the house who told him he was only there to a short period of time and that he was renting the place through Airbnb. When Limoges investigated further, he discovered that at least 26 people had left reviews commenting on their pleasant stay at his former home.

“I kind of laughed, like, it was so blatant,” Limoges said.

Limoges presented his case at a Residential Tenancies Division hearing in October, which Yim did not attend, and in November arbitrator Kimberley Akow awarded the tenants $40,629, the equivalent 12 months rent.

“I accept the uncontested documentary evidence and asserted testimony before me for review by the former tenants and the witness that neither the purchaser nor their immediate family members moved into and occupied the rental unit as required by the notice two months, and the rental unit sat vacant for several months before being renovated and used as an Airbnb rental,” Akow wrote.

Requests for comment left with Saskatchewan businesses that list Yim as the owner have not been answered. A woman who answered a phone number associated with one of those companies said Yim was in Korea and had sent her a request for comment via a Korean chat app. He also did not respond to a request for comment submitted directly through a short-term rental site.

A broken system

Securing the RTB ruling in his favor took Limoges most of 2022. Enforcing the judgment so he can actually receive his financial compensation will require further proceedings in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

“I don’t see landlords writing checks to their former tenants. I just don’t see that happening,” he said.

Limoges is speaking out now, not because he wants sympathy, but because he said his case highlights failures at local and provincial levels to prevent illegal evictions and the establishment of short-term rentals term that eat away at the supply of properties that might otherwise be rented out to people. who live and work here.

“There is a huge principle. I am less concerned with our own experience, as opposed to the larger issue,” he said.

For a time, the old house in Limoges was put back on the long-term rental market but at more than double the price he was paying. Limoges, who is a financial adviser, said landlords had too much incentive to evict long-term tenants, even if they face the Residential Tenancies Authority’s maximum fine.

“It doesn’t cost that guy anything to do that because he doubled the rent.” Too bad he has to pay us 12 months’ rent. I mean, it breaks even on day 1,” he said. “It’s good for business to screw up your tenants in today’s market.”

As of January 2023, the house is no longer on Airbnb but is listed for $365 per night on Vrbo, another short-term rental site.

Already illegal

Short-term rentals are not permitted under zoning regulations for the districts of North Vancouver and West Vancouver, but a recent analysis of Limoges found around 600 active listings on the North Shore on Airbnb alone.

Under West Van’s bylaws, a host could be fined $300. In North Van District, the fine is $500 (which is reduced to $375 if paid within 14 days). But none of the municipalities are actively looking for short-term rental hosts for the ticket office.

“The application process is difficult, as collecting evidence to prove short-term rentals is a very resource-intensive process, and considering other workloads and staffing levels, the fact is that West Vancouver must take a reactive approach to this application,” said Donna Powers, spokeswoman for West Vancouver. “It’s really onus on the district to get that proof and prove that the property is being used for Airbnb and that needs to go beyond a verbal confirmation from a guest or complainant or even an online listing. .”

More often, when a property is the subject of a complaint, the staff will investigate and send a letter to the owner informing them that they are in breach of the regulations.

In 2021, West Van received 27 complaints about short-term rentals, resulting in 13 letters and four settlement tickets. In 2022, 24 calls resulted in nine letters and seven tickets. So far this year, there has been one complaint and one ticket, according to West Van.

In 2022, North Vancouver District staff issued nine $500 Bylaw Violation Notices to hosts.

“What we’re trying to do is continue to work with them and get them to comply, and most are doing that,” said Dan Milburn, general manager of planning and permits, adding that “less of a handful” are repeat offenders.

A path to legalization

In 2022, North Vancouver District Council opened the door to legalize and regulate in the short term rentals, pending the results of public consultations. Staff are due to report back to council on February 13.

DNV staff are trying to keep a count of the number of short-term rentals operating nearby, Milburn said. Before the pandemic, it was around 800, falling to less than 500 in 2020. A new count will be presented to the council on February 13, but the most recent publicly available data from May 2022 showed 520, he said. declared.

If the council were to pursue a legalization and regulation approach through business licensing, it would mean having a budget available to be more proactive in enforcing those who violate the regulations, Milburn said.

Powers said the West Vancouver council has not reviewed the amount of the fine since 2011, when Airbnb was less of an issue, and the council has shown no interest in changes to the bylaw.

Political inaction

With such lax enforcement and so much legwork needed to seek compensation, Limoges said the blame lies with the politicians who crafted the rules that give short-term rental hosts so much leeway.

“I’ve read their platforms, and they all have plans to address the housing crisis,” he said. “The reality is that with the average price of houses on the North Shore, no child, without the help of their parents, will ever own a property. And then us and then of course we have the supply issue.

He suggested higher fines and more active enforcement as a way to get people out of the short-term rental business and put their properties to better use in the long-term rental market.

MP responds

North Vancouver – NDP MP for Lonsdale Bowinn Ma said when she came to office she was “inundated” with cases of tenants being abused by landlords. In 2019, the government made a series of changes to the law to close loopholes used by landlords to conduct “bad faith” evictions, she said.

“That’s why it’s now explicitly illegal for landlords to evict tenants in order to replace them with Airbnb or put them back on the market,” she said. “It’s a huge, huge improvement…And I certainly hope other owners who are considering doing this will recognize the significant financial penalty that can be inflicted on them.”

In light of the Limoges case, Ma said she was open to discussions about whether the punishment was severe enough.

Entire properties offered for short-term rental be subject to speculation and province vacancy Tax, Ma said, and his staff can notify the Ministry of Finance if anyone thinks the owner of a short-term rental property is flouting the law. In 2022, 151 West Vancouver property owners were impacted by the tax, paying a total of $6.6 million, although most of them were “satellite” families, in which the owner’s family lives locally but the breadwinner lives outside the country.

And, she added, the Residential Tenancies Branch has the ability to stop a bad faith eviction before it takes effect.

Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment on the issue. In their Terms of Use for Hosts, they state: “You are responsible for understanding and following all laws, rules, regulations, and third-party contracts that apply to your listing or the hosting services. “

The house that Limoges rents today has since been put up for sale. With such competition for a limited rental supply, if the new landlord decides to evict them, the family will have no choice but to leave the North Shore for good, he said.

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