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Airbnb Makes the News… Again!

We have already written on the legal implications of short-term rentals of condominium units.  Airbnb and other short-term rental providers are making the news again.

This past weekend, an “Airbnb party” turned for the worse in Gatineau (Québec). CBC reports that a shooting took place at a private residence, which was occupied by some 25 people.  The police apparently confirmed that the residence where the shooting took place was rented through Airbnb specifically for this party.

CBC also reported that Vancouverites were duped into giving $1,000-deposits to someone posing as an owner looking to rent out his apartment.  It turned out that the alleged scammer had leased the unit on Airbnb for a day and was parading tenant-hopefuls who, one after the other, would pay out the requested deposit in an attempt to secure an apartment in a city where vacancy rates hover near zero percent.

Last week, the Province of Ontario announced a new pilot “partnership project” with Airbnb.  The purpose of this pilot project is to raise awareness about homeowners’ and consumers rights and responsibilities when offering or booking online accommodations.  The Province hopes to educate the “hosts” through email notification during tax season to remind them of their tax obligations. Airbnb and the Province are also to collaborate to create a webpage with content specific to Ontario regulations. Through this “partnership”, the province hopes to inform users on topics such as:

  • How to follow tax laws such as reporting rental income;
  • Consumer protection rights under contracts, such as cancellations or refunds;
  • Accessibility requirements, such as allowing service animals on rental property; and
  • Other regulatory and safety obligations, such as having a functioning smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors.

In the meantime, Tim Hudak (the MPP for Niagara-West-Glanbrook) presented a private bill (the Opportunity in the Sharing Economy Act, 2015) to provide freedom for individual residential property owners to share their property for consideration (ie in exchange for money).  This Bill, if passed, would prevent cities from adopting by-laws prohibiting short-term leasing of real property for less than 120 days.  This proposed Bill passed second reading in October 2015 and was referred for debate to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. This proposed Bill does not explicitly address how it would impact condominium corporations.

I spoke on the Airbnb topic on Ottawa’s CBC morning show with Hallie Cotnam on February 23 at 7:50 am. You can listen to the interview here.

Later this week, on Wednesday February 24, I will speak on the legal implications of these non-traditional residential property arrangements at a live-webcast organized by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

So, is Airbnb a sharing economy opportunity or a playground for fraudsters and a nuisance to neighbours? What do you think?