Vancouver renters fight for the right to Airbnb
Gordon Glaze and Yael Slaw were able to afford the $4,200-a-month rent for a Kitsilano through Airbnb, until their landlord objected
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A couple who used Airbnb to cover nearly half of the $4,200 monthly rent on a 5-bedroom Kitsilano house say new rules proposed by the City of Vancouver would have prevented them from being able to afford the family-sized home.
“Do we want a hard and fast rule? Is that what we want, for there to be no exceptions?” said Gorden Glaze, who rents a house on 11th Avenue at Waterloo Street. “Well, that’s the way this is going.”
Under a new policy that will come before council on Wednesday, city staff are proposing to allow short term rentals for under 30 days — currently prohibited under city bylaws — but require homeowners and renters to apply for a permit, which they must display on their online listing.
Short-term rental permits will only be allowed if the home is the homeowner or renter’s primary residence (meaning otherwise unoccupied basement suites and laneway houses wouldn’t qualify) and renters have permission from their landlords.
Glaze, a 46-year-old inventor, and Yael Slaw, a 43-year-old designer, are moving out of the house after butting heads with their current landlord about Airbnb.
The couple and their three children moved into the house two and a half years ago, accepting the pricy rent because their landlady at the time allowed them to take responsibility for what Glaze describes as an “unregistered” one-bedroom basement suite.
The couple were able to make around $2,000 a month, averaged over the course of a year, listing the suite on Airbnb for around $140 a night. Metro found several one-bedroom basement suites in Kitsilano listed for around $1,300 a month on Craiglist.
But after the house was sold for $2.6 million, their new landlord wanted them to stop using Airbnb, saying his insurance didn’t cover short-term stays.
“He came to us saying…stop using short-term stays, and we gave him the finger,” Glaze said, adding that after fighting several eviction attempts, he and Slaw decided to buy a condo in False Creek.
Glaze believes Airbnb was good for his neighbourhood, allowing tourists, new immigrants and older people visiting new grandchildren a place to stay right within Kitsilano, which has few hotels.
But with the city’s rental vacancy at just 0.6 per cent and Airbnb activity in both rental building and condo raising the ire of neighbours, the City of Vancouver has been under public pressure to regulate Airbnb. City staff estimate the proposed policy could return 1,000 units to permanent rental stock.
David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC, said his organization encourages landlords to use a tenancy agreement that specifically states that any short-term rentals without the consent of the landlord will constitute breach of contract and be grounds for eviction.
Insurance can also be an issue, Hutniak said.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all that this particular property owner, their current policy likely doesn’t cover short-term rentals,” he said. “Then there’s additional costs and premiums to acquire it… and not all insurers even offer it.”