Airbnb operator flouts health orders as neighbours cry foul over City of Vancouver’s inaction

By Sean Bennett

Residents of a Vancouver residential neighbourhood are expressing their anger and frustration at City of Vancouver’s failure to shut down a popular vacation rental operated through Airbnb and other platforms continues to violate COVID-19 public health orders.

The accommodation, located in the south-east Vancouver neighbourhood of Sunset, is notorious for its use as a party house, prompting neighbours to lodge complaints well before the pandemic hit.

Now, evidence suggests that the operator of this vacation accommodation is violating July public health orders by allowing more than the permitted six occupants to reside in the house.

Comments on the Airbnb page of the operator indicate clearly that a group of eight stayed there in August 2020, well after Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the health orders, while photographic evidence of numerous out-of-province vehicles parked outside the residence further indicates order violations.

Property records show that the owner of the property to be Jarnail Singh Basi, a businessman.

One neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told ThinkPol: “We have been reporting this Airbnb to City of Vancouver since 2017, but the city has been ignoring us. We reported them for violating public health orders, but the city again ignored us. Why is the city allowing these guys to break the law and put the entire community at risk?”

The complaints were lodged by locals using the VanConnect app, ensuring that the City of Vancouver received the reports.

Commenting on the situation, an official at the City of Vancouver said: “We received a short-term rental complaint about the property at 476 E 56 Avenue through VanConnect in December 2018, and a subsequent investigation by the City found the property owner not complying with the City’s short-term rental regulations.”

“These violations were resolved by the owner and a follow-up inspection found that the property was in compliance. A further meeting was held in February 2020 and the owner was still found to be in compliance with City regulations.”

The City made no comment regarding any complaints received after February of this year, responding to the reports of health order violations by saying “The City of Vancouver asks everyone to follow public health orders to help slow the spread of COVID-19… Enforcing physical distancing in public with penalties is the jurisdiction of the Province, and the public health team at VCH [Vancouver Coastal Health] is the lead on all COVID surveillance.”

The neighbours are not impressed by City’s response.

“Why is the City asking people to report [Public Health Order] violations if they’re just passing the buck to VCH?” one asked. “Is [Mayor] Kennedy [Stewart] ever going to do anything without blaming others?”