Landlord Able To Lock Out Renter

The Vancouver SunAugust 8, 2016 GRAEME HAMILTON

MONTREAL• Quebec’ s rental board has authorized a Montreal landlord to change the locks of an apartment that was being rented out on Airbnb in a decision seen as a shot across the bow of the increasingly popular online vacation rental site.
The Régie du logement found that Quan Sheng Li, a tenant of a downtown apartment tower, had rented out his apartment on Airbnb for almost the entire months of July, August and September without his landlord’s approval.
“With as many rentals as the tenant has made, it is clear that this causes a serious prejudice to the landlord,” the board wrote in a July 26 decision. Pending a final hearing in September, it ordered Li to stop listing the apartment on Airbnb unless he got written consent from the landlord, Summit Property Management, and to pay his rent the first of every month.
It said the landlord could change the locks on the apartment to prevent further short-term rentals.
Tristan Pungartnik, Summit’s director of operations, said he manages 1,200 rental units in the city and has had to become increasingly vigilant to detect tenants who are just flipping apartments for lucrative online rentals.
“The fact that he’s making money off of our unit is probably the least of our worries,” he said. “It’s not knowing who’s in our building at all times and having our tenants being bothered. One week it could be a nice old couple who are there, super quiet. And the next week it could be a bachelor party. If you’re living 12 months a year and want peace, you don’t want to have a gamble every weekend. Is this going to be a quiet weekend?”
Li said the rental board exaggerated how often he rents out his apartment. “Sometimes I go to different places, and I just cover my rental bill,” he said.
He said it is unfair that he has been locked out of his apartment and he hopes to resolve the matter at a hearing scheduled for September.
The rental board decision comes as various jurisdictions grapple with the growing popularity of short-term rental sites like Airbnb, which hotels say have an unfair advantage because they are not subject to the same taxes.
In an earlier decision in the Li case, Quebec’s rental board said tenants wishing to rent out their apartments on Airbnb have to give advance notice to their landlords.
Established to protect tenants’ rights, the rental board is now faced with tenants acting as landlords.
It said the growing phenomenon of people renting apartments for the sole purpose of subletting them on Airbnb could distort the rental market and drive up prices.
A Quebec law that came into effect in April requires owners who frequently rent out their properties to obtain the same provincial certification as hotel and bed-andbreakfast operators, and therefore charge travellers lodging taxes of up to 3.5 per cent. Violators face fines between $500 and $50,000.
In Ontario, a report on the sharing economy published in March by the MaRS Solution Lab, in partnership with the Ontario government and the city of Toronto, recommended limiting to 180 the number of days a home could be rented out through “home sharing” services such as Airbnb. The report found that 11,000 people list properties in the province on Airbnb, leading to 375,000 stays in the previous year.
Pungartnik said he hopes his case will alert other landlords to a growing problem. He said his company regularly scours Airbnb and other rental sites to see if any of its apartments are being offered. He encouraged others to do the same.
“We want a little bit of a movement here. We feel like as it stands, we’re always at a bit of a disadvantage,” he said. “This is finally casting a bit of positive light on our rights as landlords and the recourse available to us.”