Vancouver Airbnb hosts caught using fake licences

By Lisa Tanh

Several local Airbnb hosts have been caught abusing the City of Vancouver’s new short-term rental bylaws.

Concerned citizens took to Twitter to expose a number of hosts who are using one short-term rental business licence for multiple properties on Airbnb. Some hosts are using fake business licences[1]https://twitter.com/mortimer_1/status/999145725941301248?s=12, which locals confirmed using the city’s open data catalogue. The city’s open data catalogue is a list of active business licenses in Vancouver and can be found on their website[2]http://data.vancouver.ca/datacatalogue/businessLicence.htm.

One local, James, who asked to not use his legal name for privacy reasons, believes hosts are abusing the bylaws because the process of applying for a business licence “appears to be solely based on honesty and trust.”

“I think perhaps the ease of filling in the form and clicking through the questions has given hosts a sense of entitlement,” James said. “The process does stress the requirements of the bylaws, but from what we’re seeing by the hosts listing them, they aren’t respecting it or perhaps not even reading it.”

One host was discovered to be a realtor from Sutton West Coast, a major real estate brokerage, who later took down one of two listings after being exposed on Twitter[3]https://twitter.com/brad_barrett/status/998451072829018112. Another host was discovered to have five listings[4]https://twitter.com/mortimer_1/status/998573659429060609 which are all homes and advertised as “used only for Airbnb.” Other hosts appear to be listing homes that are not their principal residence. For example, one host said “I live close by and available 24/7,”[5]https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/17405864 while another host said “only a phone call away but otherwise, I will be approximately 1-hour away.”[6]https://twitter.com/mortimer_1/status/998410157594824704

On April 19, the city enacted their short-term rental bylaws[7]http://bylaws.vancouver.ca/consolidated/12079.PDF which states a host can only have one business licence and can only rent out their principal residence: a residential address where they live in for more than 180 days a year, receive mail and use on government records. Hosts that are found to be in non-compliance, including lying in their application, will have their licence suspended and will be subject to a fine of $1,000 per day.

To prevent hosts from abusing the bylaws, James recommends that the city asks hosts to provide their Airbnb profile as part of the application process or that the city creates an online database that asks hosts to update links to their listings.

“There’s clearly a problem with the entire process and they need to be worked out in a prompt manner,” James said.

ThinkPol asked the City of Vancouver if they will change the application process and what can be expected.

In an emailed statement, the city said: “The application form was designed to be a low barrier for operators to comply with new licensing requirements. The audit process together with citizen complaints and online tools will help identify enforcement actions.

As with any new policy or programs that the city implements, we will continue to monitor and evaluate how this operates and make adjustments as needed in the future.”

The city also said they will receive data from Airbnb and a third-party vendor to validate licences and listing information.

“Airbnb will provide a list of all Vancouver licences and associated addresses that short-term rent via their platform to the city on a quarterly basis. The city’s enforcement team will then cross-reference it with their licensing records to identify any illegal operators. Existing and new Airbnb hosts will be required to grant permission for Airbnb to share information with the city before they can list their rental.”

References   [ + ]

1. https://twitter.com/mortimer_1/status/999145725941301248?s=12
2. http://data.vancouver.ca/datacatalogue/businessLicence.htm
3. https://twitter.com/brad_barrett/status/998451072829018112
4. https://twitter.com/mortimer_1/status/998573659429060609
5. https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/17405864
6. https://twitter.com/mortimer_1/status/998410157594824704
7. http://bylaws.vancouver.ca/consolidated/12079.PDF

2 Responses to Vancouver Airbnb hosts caught using fake licences

  1. nonconfidencevote says:

    Gee.
    It took a concerned citizen how long to find these non compliant AirBnB speculators?
    And one of them was a Realtor( surprise surprise)?
    Perhaps another email to Revenue Canada might be in order?
    I mean. what the hell. If the City’s in the lower mainland cant be bothered dealing with these scofflaws perhaps Revenue Canada could start auditting them?
    And if they find anything amiss….audit them for their previous 7 years of income tax?

  2. Sophia says:

    I am sick and tired of it. The NDP needs to punish these people severely;
    otherwise, it will continue this way.
    I personally sent about four mails to the CRA.They have a department right now which will look into all requests.
    Flippers-Realtors-Cheaters will pay a huge tax and their names will be on file and checked every year!
    I was stunned realizing how many realtors resold pre-sale apartments as soon as a building was completed in Burnaby.
    The Real Estate Gang created everything for flipper to thrive in Canada.
    I am not surprised even why the middle class young families can not afford anything.

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