Airbnb dispute over 'entire house' in B.C. costs unhappy guests $1,700 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Airbnb dispute over 'entire house' in B.C. costs unhappy guests $1,700

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A B.C. couple who thought the house they found for rent on Airbnb was for an entire house, only to find the landlord living in a suite downstairs are $1,700 out of pocket after the small claims court ruled the owner's presence wasn't justification enough to get a refund.

Sherry and Chris Svenson had argued the Airbnb ad listed the property as an "entire house" but when they arrived for the month-long stay they discovered the property owner living in a suite downstairs.

According to a March 22 Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, the Svensons didn't stay in the house and demanded their $1,000 deposit back then filed a case with the online small claims court.

However, the property owner, Grant Powell, refused to give the deposit back and in a counterclaim demanded $2,600 in lost revenue after the Svenson's didn't stay.

While not discussed in the decision, anyone who has ever used Airbnb may have seen the confusion caused by the term "entire house." Guest reviews on the popular site often refer to disappointment in finding out upon arrival that the owner was living in the basement when they thought they were renting the "entire" house.

"The Svensons main argument is that Mr. Powell’s Airbnb posting was so misleading that they were entitled to terminate the contract," the decision reads. "They say that the posting was for an entire house, but Mr. Powell resided in the lower suite."

The Airbnb owner provided evidence from his ad saying he lived in a separate suite on the bottom level throughout the summer. The Svensons say this wasn't included when they looked at the ad, and point again to the category that refers to the rental as an "entire house."

However, the Tribunal ruled that the contradictory evidence was irrelevant because even if the ad did mislead the Svensons by implying that the rental was for the whole building with no other suites, this was not "serious enough" to be a fundamental breach of contract.

READ MORE: Kelowna vacation rental forced to return deposit to partying guests who broke the rules

"Even if it was not what the Svensons were expecting, I find that the existence of a lower suite did not make it impossible for the Svensons to have stayed there or deprive them of the whole benefit of the contract," the Tribunal ruled.

The Svensons also argued that the place was very dirty, "super tiny," and smelt of marijuana smoke, but the Tribunal dismissed the claims due to lack of evidence.

READ MORE: B.C. vacation rental refused refund, despite 2017 wildfires

The decision says that Airbnb does allow guests to cancel bookings within 24 hours of the start of their stay, but while the listing had been found on Airbnb, the rental wasn't booked through Airbnb so this did not apply.

While Powell had argued for $2,376 to cover his lost booking, the Tribunal found that because he quickly rented the place to someone else for a week, netting him $1,326, that amount would be deducted from his damages.

Ultimately, because the homeowner already had the $1,000 deposit from the Svensons, the Tribunal ordered the couple to pay a further $735 the cover the Airbnb host's loss.

READ MORE: Kelowna luxury vacation rental forced to return deposit after owners separated, blamed each other

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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