An Edmonton resident is questioning why it took three years to shut down a problem rental next door despite numerous complaints. Devon Beggs said he and his partner struggled to get the attention of the city and Airbnb as they dealt with issues ranging from loud parties to piles of garbage outside.
Problem rental in Belgravia neighbourhood illustrates some of city’s housing issues
Mrinali Anchan · CBC News
A Belgravia resident is questioning why it took three years of complaints about an Airbnb next door to get the problem short-term rental shut down.
Devon Beggs and his partner only realized the half-duplex next to their house was divided into two Airbnb units — one for the top two floors, the other for the basement — after they moved in to their home.
They dealt with loud parties, rotting garbage, cars parking on their front driveway and a parade of strangers coming and going at all hours, Beggs said at a recent news conference on housing issues hosted by Ward papastew Coun. Michael Janz.
“To say the situation has been bad would be an understatement,” Beggs said. “It affects the livability in our own home and our neighbourhood. There is a constant feeling of invasiveness and endless disruptions living next to a property like this.”
He said he struggled to get the attention of the city and Airbnb to deal with the issues. He said he has never met the owner of the problem property but saw online via the platform that the person has many other Airbnb listings in the city.
In a statement, Airbnb said both listings for the half-duplex have now been taken down.
“The reported issues are unacceptable, and following investigation, we have removed one of the listings from the platform,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.
The main listing had already been suspended and has now been removed, the company said. The basement listing has been suspended while concerns are addressed.
Beggs said Airbnb’s actions are not going to solve the problem overall.
“Personally, to me, it’s these ghost hotels that need to go,” he said in an interview.
At the Sept. 22 news conference, he said having an Airbnb for a neighbour is like living next to a hotel with no security staff.
“There’s also no security for the people that are staying there,” he said. “So just a couple weeks ago, the family staying upstairs called the police on the people partying in the basement — that’s how loud they were.”
Beggs described how his frequent complaint calls to police, the city’s bylaw officers and Airbnb had not been addressed to his satisfaction.
“We’re being invaded by these places,” he said, “and the mentality of people that stay there is ‘Well, we paid for this place so we can do whatever we want.’ And I literally had someone tell me that the other day when I asked them to be quiet.”
A spokesperson with the City of Edmonton said complaints related to the property were investigated, but details can’t be disclosed because of privacy regulations.
“When a complaint is filed, officers will always investigate to determine if there is a need to seek compliance if violations are found,” said communications adviser Chris Webster. “Where necessary, the city may intervene for a business licence review if there is a pattern of neglect or non-compliance with bylaws.”
Hosts of short-term rentals in Edmonton have needed a business licence since 2019. Hosts are responsible for applying for a business licence online or in person at city hall.
At his news conference, Janz said the city needs a landlord registry.
“How can we create and maintain a landlord registry? How could we enhance enforcement?” Janz said.
In March 2020, city council’s community and public services committee passed motions directing administration to look at funding a landlord registry. Information will be presented to city council for consideration this fall.
Janz said he is proposing amendments to Edmonton’s business bylaw stipulating that short-term rentals can be listed for no more than 90 days in a year. He also wants a requirement that property owners remain on the premises.
“Why is the Edmonton taxpayer being asked to spend more money on bylaw officers? More money on cops, more money on enforcement, to pick up the pieces for a landlord who could be living out on Vancouver Island,” Janz said.
“It’s not fair to go back to the taxpayer to externalize these costs for somebody’s private profit.”
CBC contacted the Alberta Residential Landlord Association, which declined to comment on a potential registry.
‘Landlord-ism’ on the rise in Canada
Jacob Holloway, co-ordinator of the legal education and reform project with Student Legal Services of Edmonton, authored a report examining the purpose of a residential rental licensing program in regulating the system.
Residential rental licensing would require landlords to register and actively maintain the rental properties following relevant health and safety standards, Holloway said.
He said the underlying logic is that since other business owners are required to obtain a licence and regularly pass certain health and safety inspections, so should landlords.
“The practice of landlord-ism — that is, buying real property and leasing it out to tenants while retaining an ownership interest — is a fundamental part of Canada’s capitalist political-economic system,” Holloway said.
He said recent data he analyzed indicates that “landlord-ism” is on the rise in Canada as the growth in renter households has more than doubled that of owner households between 2011 and 2021.
“While there has no doubt been beneficial legal reforms over the years, many of the inherently exploitative elements of this institution continue to adversely impact tenants to this day,” Holloway said.
“After all, it is quite difficult to reconcile a landlord’s drive to maximize profits with the tenants’ basic human need for adequate shelter.”
Janz also said the city needs to do more to address housing affordability for renters and to better protect renters.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mrinali is a reporter with CBC Edmonton with an interest in stories about housing and labour. She has worked in newsrooms across the country in Toronto, Windsor and Fredericton. She has chased stories for CBC’s The National, CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup and CBC News Network. Reach out at Mrinali.firstname.lastname@example.org
With files from Madeleine Cummings