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Condo owner wins case against tenant who rented the condo more than 70 times on Airbnb — without her permission

Condo owner Sandra Jovasevic was shocked to discover her tenant rented her condo out through Airbnb more than seventy times. Although the practice is common, it is not usually permitted — at least not without the permission of both the condo owner and the condominium board. The Airbnb lister must also comply with Toronto law that says only “principal property” may be listed.

In an important decision, which may encourage more condo owners to act —if they find their apartment listed on a short-term rental site — the Landlord and Tenant Board ordered the tenant to pay Sandra Jovasevic $4,400. The tenant has paid the fine.

The Airbnb listing on the condo in dispute. The condo was rented out without permission from the owner by the tenant — more than 70 times.

A wake-up call for owners?

Although we’ve covered this issue in the past — especially from the point-of-view of a condo owner who does not want their condo short-term rented — this decision may help other condo owners. It’s also a “wake-up” call for owners to check Airbnb and other services. Owners can also keep a close connection with the condominium concierge, who can flag them if there is any unusual activity.

The story was originally investigated by CBC (see video report below.) Although the owner paid thousands of dollars fighting for compensation, for the damage she says was caused by the Airbnb guests, the upside for Jovasevic is the ruling that the tenant is evicted. The landlord-owner believes that the tenant never actually moved in, but instead treated it as an income source — a common practice today.

From CBC’s original undercover investigation:

 

 

Jovasevic leased the condo in Toronto in May of 2016, as a retirement investment. The deal was initially put together by two real estate agents, and the tenant did regularly pay the rent of $2,100. The unit was renting on Airbnb for US$266.17 for two-days (about $347 in Canadian dollars.)

Jovasevic first learned of the Airbnb situation when her concierge called her about the unit door being left open. There were also noise complaints. Subsequently, she found her condo listed on Airbnb by a “Sofia” — even though the tenant is a man. “Sofia” identified herself to CBC investigators, posing as Airbnb prospective tenants, as the “property manager.”

 

Airbnb listing featuring Sofia, the “property agent.”

 

She insisted on an inspection of the condo, but the tenant did not come for the appointment. She found “cleaning lists” on clipboards, presumably for a cleaning team for clean-up after a rental. As reported in a CBC investigation, the person who attended was from Zahra Properties, who was “listed as the tenant’s employer.” Zahra Properties has disavowed any knowledge of “Sofia.”

Speaking to CBC Toronto by phone, the owner of Zahra Properties, Afzal Nathoo, said: “it has nothing to do with my company.”

“An employee can do anything. My employee can go and commit a crime; that doesn’t come back to my company, does it?” Nathoo continued when pressed for comment on his employees’ involvement. “Nothing was committed from my company’s point of view.”

 

A picture of the condo rented out short-term without permission by the tenant. Picture from Airbnb listing.

 

Airbnb and the law

Please see our previous features from “Ask the Lawyer” on this issue (Stories “How to Stop a Tenant from renting your condo on Airbnb” is here>> and “New Toronto short-term rentals rules” here>>). Unfortunately, this situation is extremely common. New “fair” regulations are on the way, and the City of Toronto has restricted listings to principal residences, but this won’t stop people from trying to turn your condo into a virtual hotel for profit. Condominium Boards and bylaws often prohibit the practice, which can support any case you make against a tenant, however, ultimately the Condominium could hold the landlord responsible. It would still be the condo-owners responsibility to take action.

To bring an action, as Jovasevic did, is expensive, but worthwhile in the end. The damage can continue as long as the tenant has control of your condo and is renting on Airbnb.

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