Subletting

I’m subletting our current apartment which I found and rented through airbnb.com. I wonder if any of my friends and family could offer advice about our current situation. The listing on airbnb is under Genevieve (and it has her last name), but I have dealt exclusively with her husband Seth since we have stayed here; he is the renter of this unit. The couple and their baby daughter used to live in this apartment but have moved to Montreal. Genevieve is a flight attendant, and Seth flies for free to Vancouver every few weeks and stops by to pick up the mail when he’s in town. The property manager, James, found out the kids and I are staying here – He saw me unlocking the main door on the 20th and I had called him before that, at Seth’s request, to inquire about the non-working dryer in the basement – and told me that subletting is not permitted. He said he would allow the kids and me to stay here through the 19th as we had planned, but he came by yesterday and gave me a Notice of Lease Termination, effective July 31, for Seth. He said Seth has not responded to the e-mail he sent, and the phone number no longer worked. He also mailed the paperwork to Seth although I don’t know to what address he sent it. It seems if he knew Seth lives in Montreal, that would be a signal the unit is not being occupied by the renter. So James took a couple pictures of the living room and said he’ll call me to schedule times when he can bring prospective tenants to tour the apartment; he said we need to be here for legal liability reasons. I told him we’d be out of town July 11-18; he smiled at my naiveté and said that he would find a tenant before the 11th. I contacted Seth through airbnb e-mail so there would be a written record of all this and told him what James said. Seth called me this morning and said that I am not to let James in the apartment. He said that he (Seth) will be in town Tuesday or Wednesday and will file a lawsuit against James. If James insists on entering, I should call the police. I told him I’m uncertain of my legal requirements, and he said my relationship with him through airbnb means that I am beholden to him, not James. I’m afraid James will kick us out if I don’t allow him access to the apartment. So I contacted airbnb through their website although there is no “Contact Us” page. I really had to search within pages to then find a way to e-mail them. That page said it will take at least 48 hours for them to get back to me. I then saw a phone icon I could click on on that page, so I finally found two phone numbers but they’re only to be used in case of emergency; and I’m not sure if this qualifies or if they have legal staff that would properly advise me. So…what would you do if you were me?

11 thoughts on “Subletting

  1. Local governments unhappy with Airbnb for one reason or another are in the news a lot lately.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/your-money/a-warning-for-airbnb-hosts-who-may-be-breaking-the-law.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Vancouver news from Nov. 2013:
    http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2013/11/18/vancouver-goes-after-online-apartment-rental-site-airbnb

    This article
    http://thetyee.ca/News/2014/06/27/Airbnb-Displacing-Vancouverites/
    mentions Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, which might be useful.

    But it sounds like your “host” may have violated the terms of his own rental or ownership agreement with the apartment’s authorities. Without seeing his lease agreement with the owners, it’s hard to say what your legal position is.

    Unfortunately, after looking over Airbnb’s “Terms and Conditions,” it looks like they leave it up to the Host to make sure they are following the laws and regulations for their location. A lot of cities are going after the kind of short-term rentals Airbnb specializes in. For one thing, the municipality is missing out on the taxes that a hotel or more conventional rental would charge.

    But I’m not a lawyer. I’d suggest contacting the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (http://www.tenants.bc.ca/main/) (8am – 4pm Vancouver Area 604.255.0546)

    And I guess you need to start looking for new digs, just in case. What a hassle!

    • Thank you for doing all that research, Suzanne! I will read those articles and call the tenant advisory centre you mentioned. I guess, in general, I need to find a housing source that’s not so legally fraught/precarious. Hostels sound really unappealing in the long term. I’m not sure what kind of situations we’ll be in in other countries or what other rental sites and businesses are available, but I guess I should start looking now for airbnb alternatives.

      • I think you should leave and deal with airbnb after you are out. He can change the locks and lock you out. You are in a foreign country without a lot of rights. It is a volatile situation that I think you need to leave. Don’t wait for something to happen.

  2. I think this sounds like a matter to be resolved asap! So, yes an emergency. All the best to you and let me know what happens.

    • You’re right. I just now called airbnb where a recording told me my wait time will be “at least 30 minutes.” I’m at 14 minutes right now and listening to static-filled tracks of individual airbnb employees singing their own works. So far I’ve heard Aisha, Dylan, Venetia, and Ben. I’ll let you know if I ever get to talk to someone. Although we’ve had minor problems with all our airbnb places, there’s never been anything like this. I’ve already paid non-refundable rent for two apartments in Turkey, one in Paris (for almost three months), and one in Dublin through airbnb. So at least in the short-term, we’ll still be going through them. In the long run…I’m still searching.

      • I’m replying to myself…”James M.” at airbnb took my call after a half hour of hold music. He didn’t know what to do and put me on hold for 15 minutes trying to find someone who might. He then said he would route his copious notes which he would mark “urgent” to the legal department and someone, some day will get back to me. He couldn’t guess at the time frame for a return call.

  3. Hi Katie! Happy Belated Birthday! We have been in the midwest for 10 days- returned Sat. eve. Went to a BSN Grad in Denver for my best friend’s daughter. She went on my recommend- ation, so I am very pleased to see her grad with honors. I was proud to pin her! Went to my 50th HS Reunion (loads of fun!) & also visited all 6 siblings. My brothers are fine, Phil’s sisters are having some health issues. Sorry, we don’t have any sage advice for you. If subletting is illegal, how can James rent it again? considering Seth should also have a legal contract. Sounds like Canada has a few different laws. Guess I would check to see if you can get some free legal advice – do they have an American Consulate? or something similar? Weather is hot – hail shredded my outside plants & deer ate the remains….. Take care – will mail your home schooling forms in 2 wks. Love to all 3! Phil& Sandy

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. I would call the numbers they listed. Seems like enough of an emergency to me. I suppose you could always ask James for a copy of the lease, which should indicate if subleasing is allowed or not. If it says that it is not allowed, then I would not feel at all obligated to Seth, who has violated the term of the lease.

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