COVID-19: Airbnb hosts selling properties as bookings vanish

Vancouver couple Sarah Gebauer and Yannick Jovan Simovic made good money short-term renting their basement suite and laneway house on Airbnb.

But the couple’s property at 615 W 23rd Avenue is now on sale for $2.7 million as many short term rental hosts flee the platform as bookings vanish due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“DOUGLAS PARK Cozy family home with high airBNB Revenue!” reads the listing by Vancouver realtor Melissa Wu, who runs a side hustle peddling “immune boosting” supplements[1] “Live on the top floor & get great income!”

“Main floor features living room, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom, bedroom & a large covered deck / patio,” the listing goes on to say. “Basement features living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, and laundry. The LANEWAY built in 2013. All combined be your principle[sic] residence & other units as #Airbnb revenue machine.”

City of Vancouver bylaws restrict Airbnb to just the primary residences and owners are not allowed to advertise their basement suites and laneway houses on short term rental platforms.

Housing affordability activists have been bringing these units to the City’s attention since June 2018, but it’s unclear if bylaw officers have taken any action regarding them as the couple’s properties are still available on Airbnb with expired licences[2]

While an individual is only allowed to hold one short term rental licences, City of Vancouver appears to have granted Sarah Gebauer two: one for the basement and one for the laneway.

Airbnb updated the platform’s “extenuating circumstances policy and the coronavirus (COVID-19)” today allowing guests to cancel any reservation made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and May 31, 2020 and get a full refund.

Airbnb also announced that the company would refund 25% of the cancellation fees to the hosts.

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