Could you imagine owning a property for years and not knowing it was being rented out to strangers every weekend?
That's what happened to Sanda Jovasevic, a Toronto resident who found out her condo was secretly being rented out on Airbnb. Back in 2016, Jovasevic and her husband invested in a condo unit on 300 Front St W — a highrise near the CN Tower — for their retirement. They hired a real estate agent to find a tenant to rent out the place, but they never actually met the tenant who was chosen.
All they knew of the man was that he was an accountant who worked for a company called Zahra Properties, which he explained in a reference letter that he provided. The year seemed to go smoothly, as the tenant was consistent with his monthly rent payments of $2,100 to Jovasevic.
But in 2017, Jovasevic received a call regarding a noise complaint from two individuals inside her unit. She later found out the individuals were actually Airbnb guests, and that her unit was listed on the home sharing service all along. The listing was posted under a host named 'Sofia' and showed as many as 70 reviews since 2016.
When she told the tenant she was going to visit her unit for an inspection, the tenant never showed up. Instead, a property manager for Zahra properties came to represent the tenant, who she referred to as her 'client.' There was no food in the fridge, nor any clothes in the closets — all she found were dated checklists that indicated cleaning staff were coming in and out of the unit to clean up after Airbnb guests.
Jovasevic then ended the tenancy, citing that her condo was being rented out without her consent.
Justice was served
Fast forward to May of this year when Jovasevic took legal action against the tenant at the Landlord and Tenant Board. She filed to have him evicted and wanted compensation for "undue damage" in the unit. The tenant fired back with with a claim that Jovasevic had been harrassing him and illegally entered the unit while he 'lived' there.
At the end of the ordeal, the board ruled in Jovasevic's favour and her tenant was forced to pay $4,200 as compensation.
Luckily, Jovasevic's story had a happy ending. But incidences like hers can happen to anyone — clearly, the laws in Toronto surrounding home sharing services are still in a bit of a grey area. Thorben Wieditz, a researcher for Fairbnb, told CBC that there needs to be more regulations in place to "protect neighbours and actual owners of properties that were never intended to be used as tourist accommodations."
"You don't have any accountability or transparency. You don't know who you're renting from. You don't know if these places are safe," he added.
Nowadays, Jovasevic chooses her own tenants and has learned that sometimes you can't put all of your trust in a real estate agent.