Vigilante Twitter account outs Airbnb addresses, reports them to City and CRA

By Will Young, with files from Amy Chen

VANCOUVER, BC — A vigilante Twitter account is identifying the street addresses of units listed on Airbnb and reporting them to the City of Vancouver and the Canada Revenue Agency.

The Twitter account with the handle @VISTRO11[1]https://twitter.com/VISTRO11 goes by the name VISTRO, which stands for Vancouver’s Illegal Short Term Rental Operators.

This social media account tweets out addresses of Airbnb units and tags the City of Vancouver (@CityofVancouver)[2]https://twitter.com/CityofVancouver and the CRA (@CanRevAgency)[3]https://twitter.com/CanRevAgency.

The account has been active for less than a day, and has so far outed five addresses.

Every tweet follows the same format: “I’d like to report an illegal Airbnb: ____” and a link to the unit or Airbnb.

The City of Vancouver is taking VISTRO’s complaints seriously.

“Hi, we have reported this to the appropriate office and your case number is 10346987,” @CityofVancouver responded to @VISTRO11’s first tweet.

What motivates VISTRO’s vigilantism?

ThinkPol reached out the the social media account to find out.

“There were two kinds of speakers at the public hearing,” @VISTRO11 said. “The ‘me me me’ Airbnb over-leveraged homeowners, and those who seemed to genuinely concerned about Airbnb evictions and passionately cared about making Vancouver a place for families and individuals who lived and work here.”

“Almost all the speakers in the latter group complained about how the City of Vancouver was doing little or nothing to enforce the existing bylaws,” the vigilante added. “I want to help the City, and those who genuinely and passionately care about the city by identifying and reporting bylaw breakers.”

Interestingly, one of the units VISTRO reported to the CRA and the City was featured in a ThinkPol story about non-resident buyers snapping up Vancouver homes to run illegal Airbnb hotels[4]https://thinkpol.ca/2017/09/17/foreigners-buying-homes-to-run-illegal-airbnb-hotels-despite-tax-in-vancouver/.

The Colorado couple Lawrence J. Fluss and Deborah L. Fluss bought the three-bedroom home at 2624 W 3rd Ave for $2.3 million in December 2016[5]https://evaluebc.bcassessment.ca/Property.aspx?_oa=QTAwMDAwMDdQQg==.

The property was being offered on Airbnb for $599 per night[6]http://archive.is/g72Kh during the summer months.

The home was previously offered for legal long term rent at $2,500 per month.

The Airbnb listing is managed by an individual named Sasha Fluss, a self-described house flipper from Boulder, Colorado[7]http://archive.is/Xp6Ea#selection-929.43-929.56.

The naturopathic ‘doctor’ also runs seven other units in Colorado.

The City of Vancouver held a public hearing over two days last week on a new bylaw that would legalize and regulate AirBNB and other short term rental operations, which are currently illegal in the city[8]http://council.vancouver.ca/20171024/phea20171024ag.htm

Around a 100 people spoke on the proposed by-law, under which short term rental operators would be required to obtain a licence before marketing their units, and only offer such accommodations in their principle residence[9]http://council.vancouver.ca/20171024/documents/phea1-by-law-amendlicenseby-law.pdf.

The Vancouver City Council will debate the motion again in November.

References   [ + ]

1. https://twitter.com/VISTRO11
2. https://twitter.com/CityofVancouver
3. https://twitter.com/CanRevAgency
4. https://thinkpol.ca/2017/09/17/foreigners-buying-homes-to-run-illegal-airbnb-hotels-despite-tax-in-vancouver/
5. https://evaluebc.bcassessment.ca/Property.aspx?_oa=QTAwMDAwMDdQQg==
6. http://archive.is/g72Kh
7. http://archive.is/Xp6Ea#selection-929.43-929.56
8. http://council.vancouver.ca/20171024/phea20171024ag.htm
9. http://council.vancouver.ca/20171024/documents/phea1-by-law-amendlicenseby-law.pdf

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