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Halifax group says Airbnb needs stricter regulations for 'superhosts'

Last week, an AirBnb "superhost" in Montreal was shut down, leaving those who had booked stays at his properties with nowhere to go
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Last week, an Airbnb "superhost" in Montreal was shut down, leaving those who had booked stays at his properties with nowhere to go.

"Obviously this was a big story and a big disappointment for many people who were planning vacations and trips," says Bill Stewart, spokesperson for Neighbours Speak Up.

The removal of a host named "AJ" was sparked by a CBC investigation that found they were listing the same properties under different names, boosting their own ratings, and misleading guests about the state of the accommodations.

Stewart says this incident is an example of why lawmakers need to have regulations in place for short-term rental companies.

"People have to remember in instances like this, particularly from the consumer point of view, this company basically has no accountability to those consumers," he tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

The North-end resident says that guests who have reservations cancelled have little legal recourse to seek a refund.

"They're not really a licensed company, we don't have any kind of regulation for that particular organization," he says. "So these people really are kind of out of luck."

However, an emailed statement from Airbnb says that the company automatically provides a refund when a host cancels a reservation. This information is also listed on their website.

Stewart and his group, Neighbours Speak Up, are particularly concerned about Airbnb rentals where the owner doesn't live on-site.

"In some cases you've got a lot of people going through these particular rentals," he says.

In Halifax, where the city's housing vacancy rate is at an all-time low, Stewart is concerned that short-term rentals are taking away housing from people who need it.

"You're losing a house next to you, you're losing an apartment," he says. "People need a place to live and these short-term rentals, particularly the ones where they're non-owner occupied, are really taking up living space for people."

The group is also concerned about how short-term rentals affect the desirability of a neighbourhood.

"We've had people who've contacted us that are concerned about their property values," explains Stewart. "It's a very frustrating situation for people."

What began as a way to rent out a spare room has spiralled into a large industry, which as of 2018 was worth over $38 million, according to Forbes.

"It's certainly morphed into a much larger situation and a very large revenue-generation activity," says Stewart.

Stewart says that Neighbours Speak Up is encouraging people to reach out to their MLAs, their city councillors, and call 311 if they have concerns about AirBnbs in their neighbourhood.

In an emailed statement from Airbnb, communication representative Lindsey Scully says the company is "in support of the proposed regulations from the province of Nova Scotia."

"We really need to help people out and get these short term rentals out of neighbourhoods, apartments and condos," he explains.

Stewart says another thing people can do is look online to see who owns short-term rental properties in their neighbourhood.

"This is really a digital company that has no regulation around it that can really help people out when they run into problems," he adds. "These folks really need to be regulated, they need to be taxed so that people can really hold them accountable for the service they get."




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Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

After graduating from journalism at King's, Victoria Walton now works in the film industry and as HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor.
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