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City's Olympics Home Rental Session Weighs Short Term Gain Against Long Term Pain

A diplomatic warning was given to tenants looking into subletting their living units with or without their landlords’ permission and to landlords considering evicting their usual tenants for the short-term visitors during the 2010 Games, by the City of Vancouver at an information session last Wednesday.

“Short term gain can be a long term pain,"  Marg Gordon, CEO of the BC Association of Apartment Owners and Managers, said.

Only about 35 people were interested enough in the topic of renting during 2010 and able to make it to this session on a rainy night. Mostly middle age, mostly blue collar workers, mostly landlords or caregivers, people in the audience were mostly concerned with a slightly different issue than the speakers.

Many were worried about their tenants having “visitors” during the Olympics and asked questions about how to control the number of individuals, the amount of time they would spend and the volume of noise they would produce. Since the Tenancy Act states that a landlord cannot unreasonably refuse a tenant to sublet the place, many were concerned about what exactly constitutes the “unreasonable”.

As the questions and answers rolled on, it became obvious that the Olympics is a gray area of reasonableness and that in the end it is the human relationships that will be the deciding factor regarding the success of transactions.

Although lucrative at first sight, this business might end up in a long term loss, or damage of property and one’s place in the Vancouver renting market, officials said.

The “success” cases could happen, too.

A story was told of somebody renting a place near the Richmond Oval who was asked to sublet his place for five thousand dollars for two weeks. His landlord was not just OK with it,  but suggested the tenant raise the price to six thousand dollars.

But the speakers said that such a lucky deal is not going to be the case in every Olympic renting instance.

They said authorities are trying to make sure the situation in the Vancouver renting market will not go completely out of control after March 2010. The seriousness of this message was underlined by the official set up of the room and the formal attires of the presenters, in contrast with the after work and casually dressed people in the audience.

 The expensive ergonomic chairs were filled only to one third of their capacity, however. The meeting started almost half hour later because, as a representative of the City of Vancouver stated, they were hoping for more people to find their way through the maze of Robson Square to the meeting room.

The   organizers of the info session repeatedly emphasized that renting is a business and should be treated as a business, with signed contracts,  legal provisions, and consequences for breeching the tenancy agreement.

However, the human relationships cannot be governed purely through legal provisions and signed contracts.

For instance, somebody said that if you wanted your brother to come visit you during the Olympics you would really like your landlord to let you do this.

So, why not to put yourself in this position and allow your tenant to have family and friends over for this significant event? This hypothetical story might have touched somebody’s sentiments. However, the majority in the audience seemed to have a more down to earth approach: visitors will not be paying extra while the utilities will definitely cost more.

Besides, how can you ensure that it is only family and friends who are visiting? A younger woman interjected these concerns with sharing her experience of not charging couples more than individual tenants because it does not really cost more.

She sincerely could not understand why the majority had an issue with their tenants having visitors during the Olympics. And somebody honestly admitted that the issue wasn't extra water or electricity, but tenants making too much money off of their landlords’ property in the months of February and March.

The presenters again reassured those concerned that this money will not come as easily as it might seem. Extra income will have to be recorded on the income tax and probably will be reflected on the tenant-landlord relations and references.

 It was hard to judge the level of satisfaction with this answer since there were as many specific concerns in the room as there were individuals. But in the end, it seemed that, although highly informative, this info session to a certain extent raised more questions than it answered.

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