Airbnb listings land some condo owners in hot water

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People have been renting out their Harris East condos through Airbnb even though they are not allowed to do so. – Ryan Taplin

“Sometimes it hasn’t crossed their minds that you’re not allowed to do that even though it’s clear in the rules, but people don’t read the huge package you get”

            – Tony Hall, president and senior property manager of Podium Properties Ltd.

Halifax condo owners are getting caught listing their spaces on Airbnb, despite bylaws and declarations stating rentals must be for at least 30 days.

“It has been brought to our attention that some owners are advertising their units for rent as an Airbnb unit,” read a memo posted in the lobby at Harris East, a Podium Properties Ltd. condo in Halifax. “This is a direct violation of the declaration and bylaws for Halifax County Condominium County #391.”

Tony Hall, president and senior property manager of Podium Properties Ltd., said the Harris East Airbnb listing isn’t a first for his company.

Airbnb rentals have increased at their properties, especially downtown where about 50 per cent of their properties have restrictions against short-term rentals, he said. A lot of newer buildings have short-term rental restrictions.

“I see that same problem across our properties in Halifax Regional Municipality,” said Dan Sampson, property management director at Killam Inc.

A King’s Wharf employee said while bylaws and declarations indicate your rentals must be over 28 days, “a few owners, I do believe, have Airbnb less than 28 days.”

Most commonly, owners are renting out their unit on a yearly basis to someone and that person starts to run it as an Airbnb, said Hall.

“Our first call is to the owner and a lot of times they are absolutely floored and they’re outraged,” said the property management company president.

“We sometimes send them the link and pictures of their own unit that is online and they flip out,” he said. “It’s more common than you might think.”

The short-term rental restrictions placed in some declarations and bylaws is to align with residential tenancies, Hall said.

“People rent month to month, but we have clients that are more traditional condiminiums … who moved into the building to be a part of a community,” he said.

“Sometimes it hasn’t crossed their minds that you’re not allowed to do that even though it’s clear in the rules, but people don’t read the huge package you get from the lawyer,” said the Podium Property Ltd. president.

Most times, the short-term rental violations are dealt with after one conversation, Hall said. The Dartmouth-based company has only had to take legal action once or twice in 10 years.

Airbnb hosts “must certify that they will comply with local rules before they list their space,” said Lindsey Scully, an Airbnb spokeswoman.

“We also have a hosting responsibilities page that reminds people to check their local laws and regulations and includes additional information and resources,” she wrote in an email.

The booking website also has a feature that allows host’s neighbours to “share specific concerns they might have about a listing in their community.”

Condos without short-term rental restrictions are being targeted by Airbnb hosts, said Hall.

“We’ll get calls from realtors now, that will say ‘Hi Tony, my clients thinking of buying in this building, but they want to do it as an Airbnb or they might consider it or they’re away for six months and want to do it. Do they have a restriction on short-term rentals?’” said the Podium Property Ltd. president.

“A lot of our clients, because it’s big, have embraced it and have actually helped the Airbnbs,” he said. “It’s a growing business.”

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