Vancouverites urged to occupy Airbnb units and demand tenancy rights

By ThinkPol Staff

Citing lack of action by the City of Vancouver in cracking down on illegal short term rental in the city, housing rights activists are urging Vancouverites to take matters into their own hands by occupying Airbnb units and demanding residential tenancy rights.

Under #OccupyAirbnb banner, Vancouver’s airbnb- and speculation-fighting twitter account Corrupt Wilkinson[1] is calling on Vancouverites to engage in “civil obedience” and:

1. Book an airbnb unit for a single night

2. Move in and asserts your rights as a residential tenant by demanding a residential tenancy agreement, and dictate the term of the agreement

3. If they refuse take, them to the residential tenancy branch

4. If the hosts harass you or try to forcefully throw you out, call the police

“Airbnb hosts are social parasites,” says Corrupt Wilkinson, formerly known as Corrupt Gregor. “Despite all efforts by @VISTRO11, @Miteymiss, @brettdr and many others, @CityofVancouver has done nothing against them. It’s time to engage in civil obedience and flex our legal rights and #OccupyAirbnb.”

@Miteymiss is Ulrike Rodrigues, the woman who has been in the vanguard of the Vancouver citizen’s protracted war against Airbnb and other short term rentals, which research has found to be responsible for decimating the city’s already scarce rental stock[2]

“I think the young City of Vancouver is long overdue for some kind of squatters’ movement like in Europe,” Rodrigues told ThinkPol. “Occupation of empty houses and lands. That’s kind of what’s happening with the RVs and camper vans on public streets, they’re occupying public space to communicate their message about lack of non-luxury housing.”

“I like the idea of booking an Airbnb-like stay for a night to collect evidence, but don’t think it would work towards a collaboration with the City to take action,” Rodrigues said. “Hopefully when the City brings additional staff on board for April, those staff will have some leeway to investigate in this way.”

VISTRO, which stands for Vancouver’s Illegal Short Term Rental Operators, burst into the scene last fall by reporting suspected illegal rental operators to the city.

“I agree with @CorruptGregor 100%: Airbnb hosts are social parasites and the @CityofVancouver is freely letting them break the law,” VISTRO tweeted. “We can no longer rely on a corrupt venal city hall. We must unite to take this city back from these parasites.”

But is Corrupt Wilkinson’s plan based on sound legal advice?

Kamloops-based MJP lawyers explains in a blog post that while “there has been little or no discussion in the courts of British Columbia to provide any guidance on the issue” we can look at Ontario courts for guidance[3]

According to the lawyers, some of the factors to be considered include:

1. Is the occupation of the suite intended to be somewhat permanent, for example, did the occupier of the suite bring in personal items typically found in a home and not in a hotel, such as stereo equipment, rugs, pictures, lamps, etc?
2. Is cooking permitted in the suite?
3. Are typical hotel services, such as room service, available?
4. Does the occupant have some measure of control over the suite, or could the innkeeper enter at will?
5. Who is responsible for cleaning the suite?

“To date, the length of stay has not been a factor considered by the courts in determining whether an occupant is a guest or a tenant,” they explain. “It would seem that the length of stay would not be a factor in that determination if the predominant purpose was to run a hotel, inn, or guesthouse.”

Corrupt Wilkinson’s call to action comes just weeks before Vancouver’s new airbnb regulations come into force on April 1[4]

Vancouverites are wary of being let down by the City Hall once again.

“Whether the bylaws succeed will depend on enforcement,” Alec Smecher, a Vancouver father to a young daughter said. “I’m currently under-housed and keep a close eye on rentals in my neighbourhood, where there are more full-time AirBnB suites available than there are long-term rentals.”

“I’ll be satisfied with the bylaws if the city plans to enforce them. We know they chose not to enforce them before,” Smecher added. “This is the city’s opportunity to uphold its end of the social contract — and mean it, not just for the sake of the upcoming election.”

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