A Vancouver woman frustrated with multiple Airbnb suites in her East Vancouver apartment building wants the city to hold the operator accountable once it begins enforcement on Sept. 1.
Ulrike Rodrigues said her 60-unit Fairfax building in Mount Pleasant had been “infested” with Airbnb listings owned by realtor Zul Jiwa, who has nine listings at the Fairfax, making up 15 per cent of all the building’s suites.
“In 2014, it was three units from this one owner,” said Rodrigues, who has owned an apartment in the building for close to 25 years and runs the Homes Not Hotels Facebook page.
“In 2018, he’s listing between nine and 11 units. This is a strata building and it is absolutely not allowed without the authorization of the strata council.”
But Jiwa said he wasn’t breaking any law, or bylaw, arguing he does not need strata approval because the building allows rentals and he started renting his Airbnb units out for 30 days of more only around January this year.
He said he has four long-term rental licenses from the city, and all the units are listed under those licenses.
“There is nothing illegal,” he said. “I am not violating any of the bylaws.”
Jiwa accused Rodrigues of having a personal vendetta against him and of “harassing” him and his “guests” by slipping notices under their doors and making them feel unwelcome.
Rodrigues disputed Jiwa’s statements, suggesting that while the strata bylaws may not explicitly ban short-term rentals, the building was meant for long-term tenants, and that Jiwa was in contravention of numerous strata bylaws related to renting out suites as if they were hotel rooms.
Strata council meeting minutes from July indicate Jiwa was on the hook for making alterations to one suite without strata approval, failing to pay move-in and move-out fees, and failing to provide a Form K, which outlines a tenant’s responsibilities to the strata.
Rodrigues said Jiwa had altered suites to resemble hotel rooms without permission, and had tampered with common property by replacing suite door locks with keypad locks, and installing a keypad lockbox at the building’s front entry. The lockbox has since been removed.
She also pointed out that Jiwa used four licences for nine listings, and alleged the 30-day requirement on his rental properties “comes and goes” on the listings.
The story illustrates the complex nature of bringing in regulations to curb the explosion of short-term rentals on online platforms such as Airbnb, particularly in older buildings with strata bylaws written before the advent of Airbnb.
Under new bylaws enacted by the city in April, only principal homes are eligible for short-term rentals and the homeowner must have a short-term rental licence.
Secondary homes, including basement suites in primary homes, can only be rented for 30 days or more and need a long-term rental licence, which Jiwa has.
A long-term rental licence can be under a corporation’s name. But each licence is only for one unit, said the city.
Rodrigues, who became a critic of Airbnb in 2014 after she stumbled across three of Jiwa’s Airbnb listings, said putting up the suites on the short-term rental platform is part of an “insidious strategy” that’s resulting in the erosion of long-term rental stock in the city in favour of shorter, more lucrative stays.
“Now landlords are turning rental units into hotel rooms and charging three to four times the rate to tourists who are willing to pay it, but that higher rate is not affordable to local people,” she said.
As well, residents have to deal with strangers going in and out of their building and they suffer a loss to their sense of community.
Rodrigues said she wants to see the city focus on commercial operators when the new laws come into effect.
Jiwa said he respects the new bylaws the city has brought in.
“If she’s not happy with it, she can lobby the city and say 30 days is not enough,” said Jiwa. “But whatever is the law, we have to honour that.”