Council candidate Rohana Rezel says hundreds of millions could be raised by fining dubious Airbnb operators

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      A ProVancouver candidate for Vancouver city council is calling for a crackdown on people who illegally list properties on Airbnb.

      Rohana Rezel has reported on his website that there was an increase in 578 listings on Airbnb listings in Vancouver from September 5 to 15, bringing the total to 4,320.

      The tech entrepreneur maintained that “at least 400 appear to be listings claiming dubious exemptions, or listings with obviously fake, incorrect or duplicate addresses”.

      In an interview with the Straight at the Hellenic Centre, Rezel declared that that were already 3,800 Vancouver listings that didn’t have proper licensing.

      “The easiest solution is to have an automated process whereby when someone enters a listing on Airbnb, you can validate it against the city’s database,” he explained.

      Rezel said that the city refused his offer to build this system for free. He claimed that this would “stop cheating in the bud” by weeding out those with fake licence numbers that they supply to Airbnb.

      A City of Vancouver bylaw enables offenders to be fined up to $1,000 if they don’t include their accurate short-term-accommodation business licence number in all online listings and advertising.

      Rezel said that the city could impose fines of hundreds of millions of dollars annually if these penalties were assessed every day.

      He drew this conclusion based on the number of fraudulent listings that he’s observed.

      “Who are the number one victims of Airbnb?” he asked. “It’s the renters of Vancouver.”

      According to Rezel, that’s because when units are rented on a short-term basis, it reduces the amount of housing available for long-term tenancy.

      Therefore, he would like any money raised through fines for illegal Vancouver listings to be given to tenants.

      Not only would this help them deal with an annual looming rent increase of up to 4.5 percent in 2019, it would free up thousands of units into the long-term rental market.

      Rezel said that this would drive up the vacancy rate and possibly result in lower rents in the future.

      But he acknowledged one problem with his proposal.

      Currently, anyone who’s fined might simply refuse to pay—and the city is not allowed to slap a lien on their property.

      To address this, he’s proposing that if elected, he’ll reach out to the provincial government to try to get legislation changed. The ultimate goal would be to allow the city to place liens on people’s homes to collect unpaid fines.

      “Obviously, when we get serious about enforcement in the first year, that’s going to make a lot of money,” Rezel said.