Airbnb offers lifeline to beleaguered renters
By: Jessica Barrett
13 August 2015
I have a friend whom I’ll call Daniel.
Like many millennials, Daniel works in an industry where layoffs,
corporate restructuring and contract work is the norm. At 30, he’s got
a steady-but-still-new girlfriend, whom he’s not ready to move in with,
and not much in the way of physical assets or savings. What he does
have, however, is the lease on a sweet one-bedroom apartment in a
desirable neighbourhood close to the beach. Although at $1,400 a month,
“Everything’s up in the air right now with my job,” he told me recently. “I just want a little bit of flexibility.”
So, what’s an overextended renter to do? Why employ Airbnb, of course.
The much maligned home-share site has fast become a favourite for savvy
travellers, but it’s wreaking havoc on cities with tight rental markets
— or so we’re told.
You’ll recall a study earlier this summer suggested greedy condo owners
in this city are likely making a mint off of short-term rentals through
the site, rather than renting to long-term tenants. This, of course,
has added fuel to the concern over housing costs and supply, and led
city staff to promise they’ll look into options to curb this unruly arm
of the sharing economy.
But while strata councils raise safety concerns and housing advocates
claim hardship, there’s another side effect of Airbnb that bears
consideration. As much as the site seems to pose a threat to vulnerable
renters, it’s also a saving grace for the very population that risks
being pushed out.
Renters exist in a precarious world. For us, finding a place we like
living in — and can afford — is like winning the lottery, only the
prize money can be clawed back at any moment and through no fault of
your own. Roommate takes off to South America and forgets to let you
know? Realize you can no longer live with that live-in partner? Just
get notice that you’re out of a job? You’re screwed unless you can come
up with some temporary cash to buy you time until you figure out your
next move. Why not crash on a friend’s couch for a couple of nights and
— for once — reap the benefit of Vancouver’s ridiculously overpriced
I seriously considered signing up when my own living situation
unexpectedly changed a few months back, but I balked at the idea of
having strangers in my space.
Daniel, however, has no such qualms. When things got shaky on the job
front, he turned to Airbnb in a bid to build himself a much-needed
financial cushion without having to sacrifice too much in the way of
Inspiration hit during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June, when there
wasn’t a hotel room to be had. A little research revealed that, for the
price of a new set of sheets and a few hours cleaning, Daniel could
charge $300 a night a few nights a month and substantially beef up his
income. In the time he’s been selectively renting out his place (he
bunks with the girlfriend while guests are in town) he’s managed to
save $3,000 and buy himself a little breathing room.
“This is a way for me to kind of build some security into my life,” he says.
Renters who participate in this grey market (most, like Daniel, without
informing their landlords) also stand to reap an even more elusive
reward: autonomy. The simple fact is living alone in this city is a
luxury most cannot afford, even well past the stage of life when
roommates are fun. Airbnb offers some semblance of independence.
Pursuit of that goal resulted in another friend, this one I’ll call
Charles, leaving the East Vancouver home he’d lived in for five years.
The owner of the house, a woman in her 40s, decided to phase out
roommates in hopes of one day filling her single-family home with just
that, a family. Preferably hers. She figured Airbnb could help
facilitate that by netting comparable income to her long-term tenants
but with the added bonus of affording her enough personal space to, you
know, work on the family thing.
Charles is adamant he wasn’t Airbnb-victed, per se. He left willingly.
(And as a silver lining, he fell in love with a woman he met in his new
building.) But both my friends’ stories point to a complicated
topography that has grown out of Airbnb, one that’s much more nuanced
than studies and stats might show. While some people undoubtedly use
the service to hoard, rather than share, scarce accommodation, others —
many of them operating in legal grey areas — use it as a lifeline to
get by or get ahead. As the city contemplates regulating short-term
rentals, it would do well to devise mechanisms that discern the
Letter: Airbnb option hard to swallow
Re: “Airbnb offers lifeline to beleaguered renters,” Aug. 13.
Your article “Airbnb offers lifeline to beleaguered renters” condones and recommends illegal and unethical practices.
Provincial and strata bylaws disallow occupants who are not legal
tenants. It is not legal for tenants to provide occupancy without the
landlords’ knowledge and agreement.
The delinquent practice can result in hundreds of dollars of weekly
fines by the strata council. Repair and maintenance costs skyrocket to
unreasonable levels due to high turnover and increased wear and tear.
Careless occupants can garner damages in the range of hundreds of
thousands of dollars. A lien can be placed against the property leading
to its loss by the owner.
Do not forget the nuisance caused to other residents of the building.
Factor in a multitude of lawsuits due to the careless, inconsiderate
and unruly behaviour of those who perpetrate this practice. Oh, there
is the possible collateral damage of stripping the owners of the
results of their lifetime work, or their entire livelihood.
If anyone is beleaguered here, it is the landlord.
Cynthia Mason, Vancouver
‘Airbnb’ horror story: tenant sublets condo, without owner’s permission
CBS Chicago (video)
28 August 2015
It can be a little nerve-wracking — renting out your home to a stranger to make some extra money.
What if that tenant decided to make a little money of his own, and sublet while you’re out of town?
CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports on a man looking for answers, after it happened to him.
Robert Corwin is a digital artist who lives part-time in California and part-time in a West Town condo.
Recently he came back to Chicago and found a young couple living in the
master bedroom. His liquor supply was gone and there was a hookah on
the dining room table.
“Your imagination goes crazy. What’s been going on? It could be everything from orgies to to drugs,” Corwin says.
As he escorted them out, they told him they had rented the room on the
website “Airbnb.” It’s an online service that hooks up worldwide
travelers with property owners with extra room to rent.
But Corwin had never listed his property on Airbnb.
So, who did? He believes it was the young man who had been living
there, with his permission, renting the second bedroom. Sure enough, he
found the listing on the website.
That roommate has now been tossed out. Corwin is now asking Airbnb for help.
The company says: “Airbnb does not own, operate, manage or control
accommodations, nor do we verify private contract terms or arbitrate
complaints from third parties.”
Airbnb, however, says the company is looking into Corwin’s claims.