Airbnb – Opportunity or Threat

March 2016

Condo lifestyles succeed, and will continue to flourish, so long as there is a balancing of individual and group needs. While each condo is individually owned, the sharing of common areas and amenities requires consideration of the community.

Airbnb, an increasingly popular service for offering and obtaining short-term rental accommodation, threatens this balance.

Airbnb provides accommodation in more than 34,000 cities in 190 countries. They list over 1.5 million units for renting. Since its launch in 2008, Airbnb has become a popular alternative to traditional vacation and travel accommodation. In Paris, Airbnb reports that they service over 517,000 unit listings which is up from 144 in 2009.

Airbnb provides more economical accommodation than hotels. It does this while allowing those with spare rooms to earn income by renting them out while avoiding costly licencing, regulatory requirements and occupancy taxes required of hotels.

Airbnb has had its share of problems. A Calgary couple renting their home through Airbnb had their house virtually destroyed. Damages exceeded $100,000 and cleaners required hazmat suits.

Airbnb presents both risk and opportunity for a condo corporation.

Condo communities can be adversely affected by short-term guests who view and treat your home like a hotel. They feel no obligation to other residents. Such guests having access to common amenities is not consistent with the intent of a condo community. It can make a condo building seem more like a hotel.

Some condo owners feel they have the right to rent out their property to anyone of their choosing and for however long they desire. What they may not understand is that they are also renting out their common areas including parking, access to elevators, exercise areas and other services.

Some condo corporations prohibit short-term rental accommodation of less than 30 days. Enforcement becomes more challenging when it is a tenant, rather than an owner, who makes the suite available for short-term use. The Residential Tenancies Act requires consent from a Landlord for this use.

Airbnb does present an opportunity to make better use of condo building short-term rental suites that are available for residents’ guests but which may be vacant much of the time.

Governments throughout Canada and around the world have enacted legislation to ensure Airbnb accommodation is treated comparably to other commercial ventures. In Quebec it is against the law to rent out an apartment for less than 31 days without first obtaining a permit, having liability insurance and paying a host tax to Revenue Quebec.

San Francisco, New York State, Berlin, Spain and France have all enacted legislation to regulate the use of residential properties as short-term rental accommodation and ensure that local taxes are paid. Fines as high as $30,000 or thousands of dollars per day have been charged to those who have rented out their home.


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