Operator of illegal short-term rentals in Burnaby has lawsuit thrown out of court


The city of Burnaby sent a letter to the homeowner stating that a review of online ads showed that the property was being used for short-term or vacation accommodations rather than a single-family dwelling and was in violation of a zoning bylaw.

The operator of an illegal short-term rental business in Burnaby that sued the owners of the property for damages after the city threatened to issue a fine and the lease was terminated, has had his case thrown out of court.

In December 2018, Tong Heintz Sun signed a one-year lease for a home at 8050 Kaymar Drive with rent set at $3,600 a month.

He and the owner, Liang Duan, signed a residential tenancy agreement even though the property would be used for the commercial business of short-term rentals. They also signed a document titled as an addendum to the lease agreement that indicated the tenant had a right to operate a short-term rental business.

Duan was aware that Sun intended to use the property for short-term rentals and testified that he told her that the city of Burnaby permitted short-term rentals and that he had been in the short-term rental business for years, the trial heard.

“Mr. Sun said he was studying law, understood the policies of the city of Burnaby and could be trusted,” Provincial Court Judge Wilson Lee noted in his ruling on the case. “Mrs. Duan indicated that she relied upon Mr. Sun when she leased the property to him.”

Sun promoted the business through the Airbnb, Expedia and Booking.com websites until April when the city of Burnaby sent a letter to the owner stating that a review of online ads showed that the property was being used for short-term or vacation accommodations rather than a single-family dwelling and was in violation of a zoning bylaw.

The letter said that the property must immediately cease to be used as a hotel and any ads on the Airbnb and Booking.com websites were to be removed immediately. The city warned that failure to comply with the demands would result in the issuance of a bylaw violation notice with a $400 fine.



The owner told Sun that he had to stop running the short-term rentals. They agreed to terminate the lease and waive the remaining rental payments that were due.

Sun initially had the city of Burnaby as a defendant in his lawsuit but another judge earlier dismissed that claim, finding there was no triable issue and the claim had no prospects of success.

Even though he’d signed the lease termination, Sun claimed that the owners breached the lease agreement but Judge Lee rejected that claim and his claims for compensation.

“Mr. Sun’s claim is for compensation flowing from his operation of a short-term rental business that he was operating contrary to the city of Burnaby’s bylaws,” said the judge.

“If this court were to allow Mr. Sun’s claim, it would be sanctioning an illegal business and allowing Mr. Sun to profit from that illegal business. This court will not be used to support such a claim.”

The judge ordered that Sun pay Duan $500 for unnecessary expenses incurred during the trial.

kfraser@postmedia.com

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