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AirBnB: Short Term Accommodations within Stratas!

The first we heard of AriBnB was on CBC’s The National who then invited CHOA’s Executive Director Tony Gioventu to comment on the issue. Since then this online service has become front and center of conversation as owners are deciding to rent their suites to travelers from anywhere around the world. Naturally owners renting their premises are charging a short term accommodation rental rate which is much greater then the standard monthly rates, therefor making it a more profitable investment. However short term rentals raise many questions of security, damage to property, administration of rentals within a strata, bylaw violations, just to name a few.

So whats the deal?… Well the deal is about understanding the community and whether the community is in favor, or not in favor, and acting appropriately consistent to what the owners want to do with the property in question. Some owners don’t have a problem with short term rentals providing whatever the negative effects if any are responsibility of the strata lot owner doing the rentals. Others may not want so many transient people coming in and out of their ‘homes’. Which ever way the community is leaning there are sure to be some bylaws that may need to be developed to address specifically this type of rental accommodation. Also strata corporation are governed by the bylaws and enforcement from a strata perspective may prove to be difficult without bylaws directly addressing these short term accommodations.

At a presentation by Veronica Franco, a lawyer at Clark Wilson LLP in her presentation she noted the differences between leases and licenses. Leases granting an exclusive possession over the property and creates an interest in land, and a license is permission to use or do something on a property of land without the interest in land. Licenses are usually revocable at will and not assignable.  She noted that contracts through AirBnB and other sites were effectively a license and not a lease which then raises the question does the current strata corporation bylaws actually capture this type of rental. Do the move in move out fees apply if move in move out fees are given only to tenants? Tenants generally meaning people who have entered into a tenancy agreement to occupy a property. If these contracts are licenses to use the property perhaps then the strata may need to consult a lawyer to review their current bylaws and understand exactly if their bylaws have addressed this issue.

Generally speaking though AirBnb and the emergence of short term accommodations is contrary to most city bylaws. Homeowner suites on AirBnB and other short term accommodation sites are effectively operating like a hotel which most city regulations define anything less then 30 days as short term and would need to have a license to operate. The issue for cities is the enforcement of this bylaw as it can be difficult to fully ascertain the relationship between tenants and homeowners and generally city bylaw enforcement is currently only enforcing complaints received as the primary means of identifying these contraventions.

From the homeowners perspective if you are engaging in AirBnB rentals as this becomes a hot topic for stratas your best position would be to take a collaborative approach working with the strata and determining a reasonable set of rules a regulations that can be followed that is acceptable and addresses the concerns of the residence. Also you may expect that with short term rentals there would be a greater administrative cost to this and perhaps could expect a nominal fee to cover such costs.

As for the actual contract you engage with people traveling to BC, Its important to check with your homeowners insurance to make sure your covered in the event of a loss. At another presentation by Phil Dougan of Access Law, he noted that AirBnB offers some ‘security’ in that they advertise that they have 900,000 in insurance if a guest was to damage your property. But then further to went on to convey that AirBnB has nearly 50 pages of conditions for which a claim would be evaluated and determined whether or not to be paid out. Moreover some of the first representations a ‘host’ (home owner offering accommodation) must make is that they must agree to not violate and laws. And well as expressed above an owner is almost impossible to be able to meet those requirements as the service AirBnB promotes is generally illegal or defined as ‘Hotel’ accommodations according to municipal bylaws. So pretty straight forward: No coverage!

So needless to say this topic is very complicated and as Phil said its like the Wild West right now as laws are addressed. If you are a strata please consult with either your property manager and or lawyer for advise concerning this type of accommodation and if you are a homeowner take the time to determine whether this style of investment accommodation is really what you want. Moreover as transient as these travellers are ask yourself if something did happened what and how would you go about determining who they actually are how you would collect for damages. Generally investment is about limiting risk and this venture could prove to be beyond your risk tolerance.

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Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) set for Early 2015

Incase you have not read up on what is soon to be implemented…

The CRT Act establishes a new dispute resolution and adjudication process for all British Columbia’s residents with small claims disputes and certain issues relating to Strata Corporations. It is structured to encourage resolution of disputes using certain tools and processes but also maintains as a last resort adjudication of issues should the issue not get resolved.

The CRT has been given the authority to handle disputes between Strata Lot Owners and Strata Corporations, for a variety of issues such as;

  • non-payment of monthly strata fees or fines;
  • unfair actions by the strata corporation or by people owning more than half of the strata lots in a complex;
  • uneven, arbitrary or non-enforcement of strata bylaws (such as noise, pets, parking, rentals);
  • issues of financial responsibility for repairs and the choice of bids for services;
  • irregularities in the conduct of meetings, voting, minutes or other matters;
  • interpretation of the legislation, regulations or bylaws; and
  • issues regarding the common property.

The initial cost for a dispute to be brought to the tribunal is $100 for claims less than $3000, and $156 for claims over $3000 up to a maximum $25,000. The Tribunal costs are scaling meaning the sooner the dispute is resolved the less it will cost disputing parties.

More about the CRT and the Chair Person
(CHOA Publication & CRT Update)
Link to Ministry of Justice: CRT information

Strata Disputes and Resolution Process Q&A

GVRD Compost Waste Regulations – January 1st, 2015

Starting January 1st, 2015 the city of Vancouver’s new bylaw banning compostable materials in regular garbage will come into effect. The purpose of the bylaw is to ultimately divert the amount of garbage going into landfills and/or incinerators which in effect will reduce the green house gasses and move Vancouverites to a greener way of living. The biggest challange with this bylaw and compostable ban is of course education.  Educating individuals on the changes and assisting individuals to figure out a good process of managing waste within their homes that makes it easy for them to comply. Like any bylaw there will also be enforcement which the city will issue warnings to start and after the ‘grace’ period fines will be issued. 
For other stratas outside the GVRD this may be a topic of discussion that you may want to start talking about as a similar composting bylaw may be presented in other municipalities across BC. Here were some common questions that were asked at the recent seminar and generally what the answers were.

1. How will the city enforce the fines?
Inspectors will be observing the garbage being taken to transfer stations and fines will be issued to any contractor disposing what is now known as contaminated garbage. Contaminated meaning contains compostable materials.

2. How will the contractors enforce which property the garbage came from?
Its up to the carrier to decide how to enforce this, but it was suggested that perhaps cameras may be installed on the loaders of garbage trucks or employees may observe a couple bags for contamination and if found that property will be recorded as non compliant and fines will be issued respectively.

3. If the Strata is getting fined for ‘contaminated’ garbage how is a strata supposed to enforce that to their owner/occupants, especially if there are renters, renters just don’t care!?

Its important to discuss this issue with your property manager when that issue arises but until such time the best way is to proactively approach these changes and have an education meeting with residence. Ideally someone within council or the community perhaps to proactively engage and educate individuals on the changes with some tips on home storage and disposal. The more it is talked about and the more people are educated just like cardboard and recycling separating your compost will become normal as well.


StrataWork Educational Webinars:New Strata Owner Basics

It’s the,
“Oh my goodness, I’m so excited I just bought a condo!!
But whats a Strata??”
New Strata Owner Basics Webinar.

When: February 4th @ 3pm & 7pm

So you just bought into a strata EH?! Well come join us while we cover the life of living within a strata corporation, what to expect, and how to approach council and/or management.

Seminar Topics: Strata Business Structure, Who’s in charge, How to voice yourself, An owners responsibility, Understanding your council and/or strata manager.

StrataWork Educational Webinars:New Council Member Basics

It’s the StrataWork,

“Sure I’ll sit on Council, but i absolutely have no clue what the heck i’m doing!??”

 New Council Member Basics Webinar

When: January 28 @ 3pm & 7pm
Description: So your new at being a council member EH?!. Well come join us while we ‘paint’ the strata corporation picture of how its governed and/or how to manage and contribute to your strata whether your self managed or professionally managed. 

Seminar Topics: Strata Business Structure, Effects of Different Legislation on Stratas, Introduction to the ‘Job’ as Council Member, Meeting Terminology and Council Conduct. Seminar time is approximately 1HR-1HR30Min