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Vancouver goes after online apartment rental site Airbnb

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Popular online bed and breakfast site Airbnb.com has more than 1,000 listings in Vancouver — many are private apartments or rooms rented out at nightly rates, raising concern that those hosting visitors might not be doing so legally. (SCREENGRAB)

Popular online bed and breakfast site Airbnb.com has more than 1,000 listings in Vancouver — many are private apartments or rooms rented out at nightly rates, raising concern that those hosting visitors might not be doing so legally. (SCREENGRAB)

A growing trend of Vancouverites posting their apartments online at daily “bed and breakfast” rates has city hall and local hotels concerned over a lack of safety measures.

One website has drawn the attention of Metro Vancouver’s housing services director, who said in his report that Airbnb.com has more than 1,000 listings in Vancouver. The report listed concerns about hotel competition, zoning, permits, unpaid taxes, security and the impact on the long-term rental supply.

Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs, vice-chair at the housing committee, said Monday he’s worried those posting their apartments haven’t ensured proper safety requirements such as fire escapes.

“There’s no problem with Airbnb and how the bookings occur from my standpoint,” he said, adding several of his family members use the website.

“The problem is people are joining in this business without going through the usual regulatory groups.”

A business permit, for example, is required to run a bed and breakfast in Vancouver, he said. However, the city’s enforcement is complaint driven, he said, and there are no active searches for unlicensed hosts.

St. Regis Hotel general manager Jeremy Roncoroni said his main concern isn’t about competition — he has several friends who rent out apartments this way — but rather on the lack of customer service provided and insurance liability.

“What if somebody falls in their house or they slip in the bathtub, how will they handle that?” he said.

“There’s no set standards or anything like that.”

An Airbnb spokesman, who didn’t wish to be named, said all “hosts” who advertise their dwellings on the site must check a box to agree they have followed all applicable local regulations.

Airbnb also offers each host up to $1 million in insurance coverage, he said, adding the company seeks to work with cities to ensure taxes are paid by individual hosts.

Additionally, hosts aren’t paid — the money is held by Airbnb — until 24 hours after check-in.

The site also has a comment section where visitors can post their experiences for each stay publicly.

 

 

 

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