City of Vancouver MOU lets Airbnb off the hook

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced last week with much fanfare that the City of Vancouver has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbnb to help the city crackdown on illegal short term rentals.

I got a hold of the full text of the MOU1)https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fhQagqnZxXHX2DGmAysApgO5xYN0OSaa/view?usp=sharing through a Freedom of Information request. Buried inside the five pages of text is a clause indemnifying Airbnb from prosecution for the what people do on the platform.

1.7 Airbnb shall not be held responsible under any provision of the City’s License By-law No. 4450 for information provided by the Host, which may be incomplete or inaccurate. Airbnb shall not be held responsible for any infraction, violation or non-compliance by Hosts under any provision of the City’s Zoning By-law No. 3575.

It gets even worse. By signing the MOU, the city has agreed that Airbnb is under no obligation to remove offending listings.

1.11 The City is responsible for verifying the correctness and validity of STRA Licence numbers and exemptions posted by Hosts, and seeking enforcement against Hosts under its by-laws, Airbnb will not be responsible for removing from its platform any listings that have incorrect registration numbers or are otherwise invalid. Similarly, the City may pursue enforcement action against Hosts that have otherwise violated provisions of any City bylaws. Airbnb shall not be responsible for removing listings from its platform that belong to such Hosts that have violated provisions of City bylaws.

At a time when other cities are fining Airbnb upto a million dollars per infraction2)https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/24/barcelona-fine-airbnb-homeaway600000-offering-illegal-accommodation/, Mayor Robertson and the City’s General Manager of Licensing Kaye Krishna are letting Airbnb off the hook for any violations, and voluntarily giving up the power to force Airbnb to take any meaningful action.

Once again, Robertson and Krishna have betrayed the citizens of Vancouver by putting the interests of a predatory multinational corporation over those of the city’s residents.

Shame on you, Mr. Robertson. Shame on your, Ms. Krishna. Instead of trying to solve the housing crisis, you’ve just poured a tanker-load of fuel on it by crippling the city’s power to regulate short term rentals.

References   [ + ]

1. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fhQagqnZxXHX2DGmAysApgO5xYN0OSaa/view?usp=sharing
2. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/24/barcelona-fine-airbnb-homeaway600000-offering-illegal-accommodation/

Airbnb has caused my rent to go up by $750. I want Airbnb to pay up.

A UCLA study has found that “that a 1% increase in Airbnb listings leads to a 0.018% increase in rents.”. Short term rentals have been illegal in Vancouver until April 18, 2018, but Airbnb listings have grown by over 270% between 2013 and 2018. Applying the UCLA model, Airbnb has lead to a 4.87% rent increase in Vancouver. That works out to $3,397.17, or, more than $750 extra annually for me. It’s time for Airbnb to compensate renters of Vancouver.

The following is my demand letter to Airbnb.

Airbnb, Inc.,
888 Brannan Street,
4th Floor, San Francisco,
CA 94103,
United States

April 28, 2018

Dear Sir or Madam,

Demand Letter

Facts

1. Between Jan 1, 2013 (or earlier) and April 18, 2018, Airbnb has operated or caused to operate illegal short term rentals in the City of Vancouver in violation of City of Vancouver Zoning & Development Bylaw 3575 as in force in that period, specifically:

Section 10.19.4: No person shall use or permit to be used any sleeping unit for a period of less than one month unless such unit forms part of a hotel.

Section 10.21.6: No person shall use or permit to be used any dwelling unit for a period of less than one month unless such unit forms part of a hotel or is used for bed and breakfast accommodation.

2. Based on data provided by Airbnb 1)https://2sqy5r1jf93u30kwzc1smfqt-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/VancouverReport_finalcopy_June-1.pdf and the City of Vancouver 2)http://council.vancouver.ca/documents/pspc7_000.pdf, the number of Airbnb units have increased from 1,800 in 2013 to 6,667 as of March 2018, and increase of 270.39%.

3. A UCLA study has found that “a 1% increase in Airbnb listings leads to a 0.018% increase in rents” 3)https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3006832.

4. Based on the UCLA study, Airbnb is responsible for a 4.87% rent increase.

5. I moved to Vancouver in November 2013. Between then and April 2018, I have paid $69,800 in rent.

6. Thus, applying UCLA model to Vancouver, $3,397.17 of my rents are an increase attributable to Airbnb’s illegal operations in Vancouver.

Demand

Based on the facts above, the I hereby demand the following from you:

Payment of $3,397.17 as restitution for damages suffered as a result of rent increases caused by Airbnb operating, or causing to operate, illegal short term rentals in Vancouver.

Please confirm in writing that you have complied with the above demands within thirty (30) days of this letter.

Please note that if I have to commence legal proceedings in order to require your performance of the above actions, this letter will be tendered in court as evidence of your failure to attempt to resolve this matter. Further, you may be liable for any court costs, attorney fees and damages, including punitive damages.

You might want to contact a lawyer to discuss your legal rights and responsibilities.

Yours sincerely,

Rohana Rezel

References   [ + ]

1. https://2sqy5r1jf93u30kwzc1smfqt-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/VancouverReport_finalcopy_June-1.pdf
2. http://council.vancouver.ca/documents/pspc7_000.pdf
3. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3006832