‘These guys are predators’: Condo owner says home turned into Airbnb ‘ghost hotel’

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Jason Yung says ‘chaos’ began when new tenant signed lease in January

Residents says their building on St. Patrick Street in Ottawa has been host to a so-called ‘ghost hotel’ since the beginning of the year. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

An Ottawa man who says his tenant is renting his condo out on Airbnb against his will — and the condo board’s rules — is complaining he feels violated by predators.

Jason Yung moved to New York City a few years ago to pursue a master’s degree and found a new tenant in January to rent his ByWard Market condo.

Almost immediately, he had complaints from neighbours in the small 22-unit St. Patrick Street building about the number of people coming and going from his apartment.

Michael Baran says there’s ‘a sense of anxiety’ in the small condo building about the ‘parade of guests.'(Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

“There’s a parade of guests staying at the place,” said fellow condo owner Michael Baran. “We don’t know who’s coming in. We can’t control it.”

Yung found his home listed on Airbnb by a host named “Daniel.” When he complained to his tenant, the property was delisted, but soon reappeared under the host name “John.”

The image used for “John” is a picture of South Korean actor Jang Geun Suk.

‘Taken for a fool’

A “ghost hotel” is a term for an Airbnb listing that isn’t owner occupied, but essentially a short-term rental managed by a company and sometimes advertised under a fake profile.

John has seven properties listed in Ottawa and Montreal, including Yung’s “cozy one-bedroom apartment,” available for rent in May for as low as $71 a night.

Jason Yung says his condo was listed on Airbnb without his consent by his tenant. (Airbnb website)

Neighbours say Airbnb guests are staying there right now.

“It makes me feel violated, really,” Yung said. “Like, really taken for a fool.”

Yung said he contacted his tenant, who denied subletting the property in contravention of the lease agreement and the condo board rules.

CBC contacted the tenant and while he declined an interview, he said he lived in the apartment and Yung’s information is false.

Hosts must comply with local rules

Neighbour Jackie Swain lives across from the unit and said she has seen a number of guests over the last few months.

“Some people only come for a night, so you could have several different people coming in, night after night,” she said.

Last week, one stranger Swain described as “sort of seedy looking” banged on her door and asked to use her Wi-Fi.

Yung contacted Airbnb to ask that the listing be removed, but was told Airbnb were “unable to mediate or assist.”

Jackie Swain has lived in her St. Patrick Street condo since it was built in 1990. She says several different people a week are now staying at the unit down the hall from hers. (Toni Choueiri/CBC)

In a statement to CBC, Airbnb said hosts “must certify that they will comply with local rules before they list their space.” 

Airbnb said there is a forum on the website where neighbours can share concerns about a listing in their community.

For Yung, that’s not enough.

“They definitely want to charge all the fees from it, but they don’t want any of the responsibility.”

‘Multilisters’ behind many Ottawa Airbnbs

With only seven listings, however, “John” isn’t even one of the most prolific hosts in Ottawa.

According to a CBC News analysis of Airbnb listings for entire homes or apartments on April 10, that distinction belongs to someone going by the name “Genevieve.”

When CBC analyzed the listings, “Genevieve” was listing 75 properties.

In all, there are 210 listers in Ottawa offering more than one property for rent. Otherwise known as “multilisters,” they manage a total of 789 properties, representing 48 per cent of the city’s listings.

That’s well ahead of Toronto, where 42 per cent of listings are managed by multilisters, and Vancouver, with 32 per cent. 

Gatineau, Que., has 79 hosts with multiple listings and they manage 52 per cent of the city’s listings.

“Most of what’s happening on Airbnb isn’t home sharing,” said David Wachsmuth, a McGillUniversity urban planning professor who has studied the company for several years.

“Instead, it’s something much more like commercial short-term rental operations.

“[These hosts] with multiple listings, they’re the ones who are actually in this as a business who are renting their properties out year round,” Wachsmuth said. 

Impact on housing market

The CBC analysis shows up to 0.41 per cent of all Ottawa homes are listed on Airbnb.

Wachsmuth said if just one per cent or less of a city’s housing is converted into short-term rentals, that can have a “really serious” impact on housing stocks.

“That one per cent number looks small when you compare it to the amount of housing in general, but if you compare it to the amount of housing that’s available for new tenants or new homeowners, it actually is a much, much higher percentage,” said Wachsmuth.

Ottawa’s central neighbourhoods have the most listings. The ByWard Market tops the table, with 3.4 per cent of all private dwellings available to rent on Airbnb.

Airbnb has consistently said data gathered in this manner is unreliable and can have significant gaps because of the limited information available on its public web pages.

‘Change the locks’

As for Yung, he’s trying to evict his tenant, but his hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board was recently postponed until June.

He said he fears for his elderly neighbours who may have to put up with the “chaos” of living next to a ghost hotel for months.

“I feel like there should be some kind of situations that the landlord is able to change the locks on these deceptive tenants,” he said.

“These guys are predators.”

Yung in the kitchen of his New York apartment. He says his Ottawa tenant has been renting his home on Airbnb without his permission. (Skype image)


With files from Zach Dubinsky and data analysis by Valerie Ouellette, Naël Shiab and Inayat Singh.

METHODOLOGY: How did CBC analyze neighbourhoods and Airbnb listings?

CBC monitored and collected the price, number of reviews, star rating and geolocation of all listings advertising an entire home or suite that appeared on Airbnb’s website on April 10, 2019, for 17 Canadian towns and cities. A minority of listings might be duplicates of the same property created by the same host as a marketing strategy.

For six major cities, including Ottawa, a neighbourhood breakdown was also conducted. Each of the six cities provided CBC with their custom “Neighbourhood Profile” and current neighbourhood boundaries.

CBC then used the total number of private dwellings, which include both occupied and unoccupied homes, to estimate the percentage of homes listed on Airbnb in each neighbourhood. In Ottawa, these numbers came from the 2016 census.

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