News / Vancouver

Burnaby tenant shocked to see home listed on Airbnb

Three students were sad when their landlord said they had to move out so his family could move in. But they were shocked when they saw the place on Airbnb.

Student Theresa Mansell was shocked when she saw her apartment listed on Airbnb after her landlord said he needed it for relatives.

Contributed/Screenshot

Student Theresa Mansell was shocked when she saw her apartment listed on Airbnb after her landlord said he needed it for relatives.

When Theresa Mansell and her two roommates got an email from their landlord in mid-February stating they had to vacate their Burnaby home so his family could move in, they were disappointed and made plans to leave at the end of March.

But they were suspicious about the reason for their eviction since a few weeks earlier, a photographer showed up to take photographs of the house for Airbnb, Mansell told Metro. At the time, the landlord assured them he was only listing the basement suite, not the upper level of the house they rented for $2,100 on a month-to-month lease.

“We ended up looking online and finding the ad for our actual place,” said Mansell, a 24-year-old Emily Carr University student who is stressed about moving during final exams. “We were shocked and pretty angry about it.”

A screenshot of the Airbnb listing.

Screenshot

A screenshot of the Airbnb listing.

Mansell’s experience comes as Metro Vancouver municipalities grapple with rental vacancy rates near zero, leading politicians to question whether short-term rentals on websites such as Airbnb are taking rental units off the housing market.

Under B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act, a landlord may evict tenants if their mother, father or children intend to occupy the suite. A tenant may be eligible for compensation if the landlord does not use the property in the way stated in the eviction notice within six months of the move out date, according to B.C.’s Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre. 

As of Tuesday morning, the listing for Mansell’s house was available the day after the students move out (April 3). It was unavailable from mid-May to mid-June, but was otherwise listed for as low as $162 per night in April and up to $698 per night over the Canada Day long weekend.

“No wonder he wants to put it on Airbnb for the summer,” Mansell said.  

But the listings for the summer disappeared on Tuesday afternoon after Metro contacted the landlord via Airbnb.

“No, actually [it] is not available after end of April,” the landlord wrote in messages on Airbnb (his full name isn’t listed).

He said was only renting the house on Airbnb for the month because the notice was for April 30, but the students wanted to leave at the end of March.

“The tenants were given way more than two months notice to which they happily agreed at the beginning of the year,” he wrote. “I agreed to be nice to them and now I am trying to get some use for the space these loose days of April because my plans are for [the] end of April.”

While the landlord disputes the tenants’ side of the story, the fact that they accepted the eviction notice, regardless of its validity, and didn’t appeal within 15 days means they might have a hard time winning a dispute at the Residential Tenancy Branch, according to Tom Durning at TRAC.

TRAC has only received one or two calls about Airbnb problems, he said, but they often hear about landlords evicting tenants under the guise of family use and then advertising the unit on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars more.

Burnaby Coun. Colleen Jordan said the city has just started looking into Airbnb rentals and how to manage them fairly, perhaps as somewhere in between a secondary suite and a bed and breakfast. Tofino recently passed a motion requiring Airbnb operators to get a business licence from the city. Vancouver is also looking into the issue.

As for Mansell and her roommates, they’re dispersing this weekend and have managed to find places to stay. She told her story in hopes politicians will take action on Airbnb.

“I don’t hate Airbnb itself. I think it’s a very cool idea,” she said. “But there does need to be some more regulations so these situations don’t happen… the law needs to catch up with it.”