Vancouver law firm seeking claimants for cash payouts in $500K settlement with Airbnb

·3 min read
The B.C. Supreme Court approved settlements in two class action lawsuits filed against short-term rental company Airbnb in 2017, but the law firm representing the plaintiffs believes many Canadians eligible for a payout have yet to come forward. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)
The B.C. Supreme Court approved settlements in two class action lawsuits filed against short-term rental company Airbnb in 2017, but the law firm representing the plaintiffs believes many Canadians eligible for a payout have yet to come forward. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)

Vancouver's West Point Law Group says surprisingly few people have come forward to file claims in a $500,000 settlement of two class action lawsuits against Airbnb, approved by the British Columbia Supreme Court in February.

The lawsuits were filed in 2017, both claiming that the plaintiffs' properties were listed, rented, or licensed through Airbnb without consent. As part of the settlements, Airbnb has not admitted any wrongdoing or liability.

Potential claimants include landlords who allegedly had their properties listed online without their knowledge and strata or condominium corporations whose common areas were used by Airbnb renters. Individuals or corporations across Canada are eligible to apply.

"At the time, the issue of Airbnb rentals was in the news a lot," said Polina H. Furtula, the counsel for the plaintiffs and a lawyer with West Point Law Group. "We estimated the class size to be at least several hundred."

According to Furtula, approximately 20 to 30 people have filled out a claim form and submitted supporting evidence so far. She says she's not sure why the number of people who have responded is so low.

"Maybe they think that the amount that they're going to receive is too small and not worth their time, or maybe they just don't want to bother," she said.

"We decided to extend the deadline and publicize it again in the hopes that more people would come forward."

Airbnb
Airbnb

Changing times

Furtula says things have changed dramatically since the class actions were filed, as provinces and municipalities have introduced strict bylaws and regulations, often requiring anyone who wants to rent out their property to file for a licence.

Since Sept. 1, 2018, all short-term rental operators in Vancouver must have a business licence and include their licence number in all online listings and advertising. They require either strata approval or permission from the landlord to rent out a home short-term before applying for a licence.

"The legislative landscape has changed a lot since then," said Furtula, adding that when Airbnb first appeared on the market, many people tried to take advantage of property owners to "try and make a quick buck."

Back when the class actions were first filed, Furtula remembers a woman who contacted the law firm complaining that a dog sitter had rented out her apartment while she was away.

"These platforms, especially Airbnb, have really tried to curb this type of behaviour," Furtula said. "We get very, very few calls or emails with respect to problems with short-term rentals now."

CBC reached out to Airbnb requesting an interview or statement but did not hear back.

Anyone who thinks they or their corporation is eligible for a cash payment can fill out a claims form on the Airbnb Class Action website and send supporting evidence by mail or email.

West Point Law Group says the amount paid to each claimant will vary depending on how many people participate.

The deadline to submit a claim has been extended to Sept. 30, 2022.