B.C. housing minister tells people not to help ‘desperate scammers’ with Airbnb fraud

B.C. housing minister tells people not to help 'desperate scammers' with Airbnb fraud
Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon talks during a press conference in the rotunda at the legislature Victoria, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. British Columbia's minister of housing is warning people not to fall for short-term rental scams as the province moves to limit the hotel alternatives to increase housing stock.

British Columbia’s minister of housing says he’s shocked and frustrated by an attempt to recruit people to take part in what he calls a fraud to get around new rules about short-term rentals.

Ravi Kahlon shared a screenshot on social media showing a Vancouver-based rental management company offering $500 to people willing to change the address on their driver’s licence to match an address it selects, then apply for an Airbnb approval.

That’s to skirt new rules coming next year that would allow people to offer short-term accommodation only if it’s at their principal residence.

Kahlon says anyone considering the offer needs to understand that the scheme is illegal, and those taking part would find themselves in “a lot of trouble for really no gain.”

He warns people on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, not to assist the “desperate scammers.”

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The government introduced legislation last month to limit short-term rentals in many cities in B.C. in an effort to put thousands of units back into the long-term rental pool, with the changes coming into effect in May.

The post from the management company has since been removed and the company’s website cannot be viewed, but Kahlon said in an interview on Monday that it raises serious concerns.

“That somebody would go out and suggest for $500 that people put themselves on the line for fraud, it simply doesn’t make sense,” said Kahlon.

Although most of the legislation won’t be implemented until next year, Kahlon said it’s already working, with “a lot more listings going on sale” and more units going into the long-term rental market.

“So, the legislation is already having an impact, a positive impact.” Kahlon said. “I suspect it’ll only be more in the new year, when the new principal-residence requirement kicks in.”

Online platforms will be required to share data with the province, something Kahlon said will help crack down on scammers.

Kahlon said local government and the ministries of housing and finance will enforce the new rules.

“Local governments will have information and the platforms themselves will have the responsibility to make sure any listing that goes on their site has the proper authentication, has the proper licenses from the province and local government,” said Kahlon.

Nono Shen, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2023.

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