Canada's Condominium Magazine
In a move that Toronto resident Sanda Jovasevic hoped would be a wise investment for retirement, she hired a real estate agent to assist her in leasing her condo unit. Her agent worked with another to negotiate an agreement, and the lease was signed in May without Jovasevic ever meeting the tenant, a man by the name of Shripal Banker.
He did, however, provide a reference letter stating that he worked for a property management company called Zahra Properties. Things appeared to be going smoothly at first, with the tenant paying $2,100 monthly over the next year. However, something unusual was happening unbeknownst to Jovasevic and her husband.
The couple began to notice a series of incidents the following year. In February 2017, they received a call from the building’s concierge, who alerted them that their unit’s front door was left wide open.
In November, they were again contacted by the concierge, this time being informed that a noise complaint had been made. The concierge also told them that two Airbnb guests were staying in the unit and that the unit had been listed in their system as an Airbnb condo all along. Someone was repeatedly renting out the unit on Airbnb.
Jovasevic looked the unit up on Airbnb and discovered that the unit had over 70 reviews, which dated back to 2016. “It was a complete shock to us,” she said. “How many people went through our condo without even knowing us? And what could have happened that we were not aware of?”
She was not alone either. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that two condo owners had their units listed without their knowledge or consent. Both units were being listed for rent by a host who claims to work for a Toronto-based property management company.
Jovasevic informed the tenant that she was going to inspect the unit. Inspection was set for November 7th, but Banker did not show. Instead, she was met by a woman who claimed to represent Zahra Properties and referred to Banker as her client.
During the inspection, Jovasevic took photographs of the unit’s empty closets and refrigerator, as well as dated checklists which she believed to be left by cleaning staff. She found that the unit was obviously being used as a home-sharing business, but the representative denied it. Jovasevic returned for another inspection later in the month, this time being greeted by a U.S. woman who stated that she was renting the unit through Airbnb for a two-night stay at $266.17.
This prompted Jovasevic to issue Banker a notice to vacate the premises. In the notice, she stated that the reason was due to the unit being rented out for short-term rentals without her consent. The unit has since been removed from Airbnb after being listed as one of over 10 listings from Airbnb host Sofia, whose units have over 700 reviews, with the most recent taking place in February 2018.
Jovasevic will appear along with Banker at a joint Landlord and Tenant Board hearing, where she will make the case that Banker was renting out the unit without her consent. Banker is claiming that Jovasevic harassed him and disrupted his enjoyment of the unit.
Legal experts warn of home-sharing situations which run the risk of violating Ontario legislation and condo bylaws. “It all depends on the condominium documentation,” said Lash Condo Law founder Denise Lash. Each building has its own bylaws, some of which allow home-sharing services and short-term leases while others do not. Meanwhile, the law is struggling to keep up as rental agencies such as Airbnb become increasingly popular.
In December, city council voted to require rental operators to obtain a license for short-term rentals, as well as permitting homeowners and renters to offer their primary residences only. The regulation will go into effect later this year.
Additionally, hosts signing up on Airbnb are required to certify that they will operate in compliance with local rules and regulations before listing their space, according to company spokesperson Lindsey Scully. “We also have a hosting responsibilities page that reminds people to check their local laws and regulations and includes additional information and resources.”