Airbnb renters bypassing Vancouver licensing rules

Vancouver residents who rent their homes out on Airbnb must now have a licence to do so under new bylaws.

The city agreed a deal with Airbnb in April requiring all short-term rentals on the site to display a valid business licence number by September 1. Anyone found to be breaking this bylaw could now receive a fine of up to $1,000 a day.

Airbnb said it removed around 2,500 listings which did not comply with the city’s bylaw but software engineer, Jens von Bergmann, believes that some people are trying to bypass the new rules. He noticed listings without a valid licence number could no longer be booked for less than 30 days while other listings had information other than a valid number in the licence field.

“I took data from Airbnb, the website. I looked at all the listings that they have and I compared that to the city licensing data,” said von Bergmann. “Some people just said: ‘Oh, I will get a licence at some point,’ and just wrote that in the text. Or some people claimed to be exempt. They just wrote ‘exempt’ there.”

For one home with ‘exempt’ written in the licence field, the site allowed for bookings of just one night, representing a violation of the new Vancouver bylaws. Although people can only list their primary residence as a short-term rental option, CTV News found people displaying multiple active listings with the same licence number on each listing.

The new bylaws aim to increase the city’s rental stock by making people rent to tourists instead of locals.

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