City inspectors have found Airbnb rentals that were nothing more than backyard storage sheds – without bathrooms – behind a house near Boundary Road.
They found a 14-unit building in the south Granville area where every apartment was listed for short-term rental.
And they've discovered property managers listing 10 or more units at once for stays as short as one night.
Those are some of the cases that city staff outlined in a confidential memo to councillors this week as the city steps up its campaign against short-term rentals, which appear to be removing long-term housing from the market or simply pose safety concerns.
"Staff are using lessons learned from these enforcement cases to design a cost-effective, comprehensive compliance system," wrote Kaye Krishna, the city's new manager of development services, in the memo.
The city also recently went to court to get an injunction to stop the owner of several townhouse units in one complex in Fairview from renting them out through Airbnb. That entailed having a city staffer monitor the rentals for several weeks, then booking and staying at a unit for two nights. The owner has responded to the city and the units are no longer available on Airbnb, said the city's chief licensing inspector, Andreea Toma.
But she said dealing with others is an ongoing campaign.
City staff have received 55 complaints about short-term rentals this year, almost triple the 19 they received for all of 2015. She said city staff are not "going out there and looking for these short-term rentals" and are instead responding only to complaints.
Ms. Toma emphasized that staff are prioritizing complaints that involve buildings or property managers with multiple units for rent – commercial operators, essentially – and unsafe buildings.
City staff estimate there are currently 5,300 Airbnb listings for Vancouver. (Airbnb is just one of 13 platforms that allow people to book vacation rentals, but it is the largest.) However, Ms. Toma said only a handful are showing up as multiple listings run by one operator.
A city news release also said staff would move quickly to crack down on short-term rentals in social housing, but Ms. Toma said there haven't been any cases like that.
Kishone Roy, the CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, said that would be very unlikely, since non-profit operators would be very quick to notice any kind of abuse of tax-supported housing.
No Airbnb listing will be legal until the city passes a new bylaw some time this fall. The city is planning to legalize short-term rentals for people who are renting out a room in their principal residence or even the whole residence if they are away temporarily. But the proposed bylaw would not allow short-term rentals for basement suites, laneway houses or any unit that appears to be operated as a full-time vacation-rental business.
Ms. Toma said early feedback from public consultations indicates the public doesn't have a problem with people renting all or part of their own single-family homes.
Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr said she has only received calls or messages from people who like the idea of short-term rentals because it allows them to make ends meet in a tough, expensive city.