Airbnb: Tool of convenience or bone of contention?

For something that was originally intended to be a tool of convenience, Airbnbs – when it comes to condo operations – are more a bone of contention.

By Airbnbs, we mean units where the owner is not a full-time resident and that are operated like short-term-stay hotel rooms. Indeed, they are a standing agenda item in some building’s monthly condo board meetings. In my own condo, monitoring for Airbnbs is a team effort that involves our property manager, front desk staff, residents and board. We check online listings regularly, and where unit numbers are not listed, view and interior photos usually provide enough clues to pinpoint the suspect units.

Why do we care about Airbnbs?

1. Legal responsibility

Condominium boards are elected by owners to manage the “affairs of the condominium corporation” as legally defined and enshrined in the Declaration. The Declaration represents the founding documents of the corporation, detailing governance structures and procedures, by-laws, rules and regulations. This means that condominium boards are legally responsible to uphold and enforce the Declaration – always.

When it comes to leasing condo units, most Declarations have clearly defined “minimum lease terms” – typically, six or 12 months. This means that hotel-style Airbnbs are not permitted, and boards are therefore legally compelled to enforce this rule. Condominium boards cannot unilaterally decide to ignore or not enforce the Declaration.

2. Increased demands on building operations and maintenance

Maintenance fees are the biggest concern of condominium owners. Budgets are established assuming operations, maintenance, repair and capital costs typical of residential building – not hotels. This means that condominium buildings with Airbnb units would likely experience increased costs associated with higher demands on their operations (such as front desk staff time) and maintenance (cleaning and repair of common elements).

3. Some owners don’t even know

Some Airbnbs are not even operated by the legally registered owners or even with their knowledge. Instead, their tenants (who sign six or 12-month leases) are actually operating their leased premises as Airbnbs for their own profit. In some cases, these “tenants” are renting several condominium units across the city and operating them all as Airbnbs.

4. Building reputation

Even condominium buildings have a reputation in the marketplace, and as in most things in life, reputation matters.

So what can condo boards do?

  • Establish clear protocols and procedures (reviewed by your condominium solicitor) to monitor, identify and deal with owners who may be operating their units as Airbnbs. This gives your team very clear directions on how to handle these situations.
  • Educate your residents that Airbnbs are not permitted in your building and remind owners of their legal obligation to comply with your Declaration, including minimum lease terms.
  • Involve all your residents in the security, cleanliness and smooth operations of your building by inviting participation in committees, building-wide social events and charity activities. Getting your residents to get to know each other is the key to developing an engaged community.


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