A Belgravia resident is wondering why it took three years of complaints about an Airbnb next door to close the short-term rental issue.
Devon Beggs and his partner only realized that the half-duplex next to their house was divided into two Airbnb units, one for the top two floors and the other for the basement, after they moved into their house.
They faced loud parties, rotting garbage, cars parked in the driveway and a parade of strangers coming and going at all hours, Beggs said at a recent news conference on housing issues hosted by Ward Papastew Coun. Michael Janz.
“To say the situation has been bad would be an understatement,” Beggs said. “It affects the livability of our own home and our neighborhood. There is a constant feeling of invasiveness and endless disruption living next to a property like this.”
He said he had difficulty getting the attention of the city and Airbnb to address the issues. He said he never met the owner of the problem property, but saw online through the platform that the person has many other Airbnb listings in the city.
In a statement, Airbnb said both listings for the half-duplex have now been removed.
“The reported issues are unacceptable and, after an investigation, we removed one of the listings from the platform,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to Breaking:.
Primary trading had already been suspended and has now been removed, the company said. The basement listing has been suspended while concerns are addressed.
Beggs said Airbnb’s actions won’t solve the problem overall.
“Personally, for me, it’s these ghost hotels that need to go,” he said in an interview.
At the September 22 press conference, he said that having an Airbnb as a neighbor is like living next to a hotel without security personnel.
“There is also no security for the people who stay there,” he said. “So just a couple of weeks ago, the family staying upstairs called the police about people partying in the basement – that’s how loud they were.”
Beggs described how her frequent complaint calls to police, city officials and Airbnb had not been addressed satisfactorily.
“We’re being overrun by these places,” he said, “and the mentality of the people who stay there is, ‘Well, we pay for this place so we can do whatever we want.’ And literally someone said that to me the other day when I asked them to be quiet.”
A spokesperson for the City of Edmonton said complaints related to the property were investigated, but details cannot be released due to privacy regulations.
“When a complaint is made, officers will always investigate to determine whether it is necessary to seek compliance if violations are found,” said communications advisor Chris Webster. “When necessary, the city may intervene for a business license review if there is a pattern of negligence or non-compliance with bylaws.”
Short-term rental hosts in Edmonton have required a business license since 2019. Hosts are responsible for applying for a business license online or in person at City Hall.
At his news conference, Janz said the city needs a registry of property owners.
“How can we create and maintain a registry of property owners? How could we improve law enforcement?” Janz said.
In March 2020, council’s public and community services committee passed motions directing the administration to consider funding a landowner registry. The information will be presented to the city council for consideration this fall.
Janz said he is proposing amendments to Edmonton’s business bylaws that stipulate short-term rentals cannot be listed for more than 90 days in a year. He also wants owners to be required to remain on the premises.
“Why are the Edmonton taxpayers being asked to spend more money on bylaw officers? More money on police, more money on law enforcement, to pick up the pieces for a homeowner who might be living on the island of Vancouver,” Janz said.
“It’s not fair to go back to the taxpayer to externalize these costs for someone’s private benefit.”
CBC contacted the Alberta Residential Landlords Association, which declined to comment on a possible registry.
‘Landlordism’ is on the rise in Canada
Jacob Holloway, legal education and reform project coordinator at Student Legal Services in Edmonton, wrote a report examining the purpose of a residential rental licensing program in regulating the system.
The residential rental license would require landlords to actively register and maintain rental properties following relevant health and safety standards, Holloway said.
He said the underlying logic is that since other business owners must obtain a license and periodically pass certain health and safety inspections, the owners must do so as well.
“The practice of landlordism, that is, purchasing real estate and leasing it to tenants while maintaining ownership interest, is a fundamental part of Canada’s capitalist political-economic system,” Holloway said.
He said recent data he analyzed indicates that “homeownership” is increasing in Canada, as the growth of renter households has more than doubled that of owner households between 2011 and 2021.
“While there have undoubtedly been beneficial legal reforms over the years, many of the inherently exploitative elements of this institution continue to negatively impact tenants to this day,” Holloway said.
“After all, it is quite difficult to reconcile a landlord’s drive to maximize profits with tenants’ basic human need for adequate housing.”
Janz also said the city needs to do more to address housing affordability for renters and better protect tenants.