⚖️ Rental wars

To: Hearsay Readers

Today’s update includes:

  • B.C.’s war on Airbnb

  • Getting SLAPPed for going to the police

  • Pledging allegiance to the king

  • No same sex marriage in India

— Dylan Gibbs

REAL ESTATE

B.C. proposes near ban on short-term rentals

Planning to run an Airbnb empire as a side hustle? Not on British Columbia’s watch. The government tabled legislation this week aimed at eliminating most short-term property rentals in the province. The bill still needs to move through the legislature, but it’s likely to pass.

The OG Airbnb experience: Under the new law, you won’t be able to rent your property out for a period shorter than 90 days, unless it’s your principal residence or a secondary suite like a basement unit. Feel free to invite the couch surfers over, but you can’t buy an investment property just to rent it out like a hotel through Airbnb.

Don’t worry about your vacation trip, though: there’s an exception for resort properties. And the rules also won’t apply to small towns with less than 10,000 people, unless those towns choose to opt-in.

So what? B.C. isn’t the first place to try and regulate short-term rentals, but the proposed legislation packs a stronger punch than most previous efforts. Many of the existing rules come from city bylaws, which are tougher to enforce. Under the new law, short-term rental owners need to register with the province. Companies like Airbnb will need to check listings against the provincial registry and share information to support enforcement. B.C. is also creating a dedicated enforcement unit to ensure compliance.

Where is this coming from? The government says short-term rentals are contributing to the Canada’s ballooning housing costs by removing properties from the market. The goal is to put properties back on the market, or at least have the owners offer longer term leases to residents instead of visitors.

SLAPP

Ontario Court of Appeal says police reports are protected by anti-SLAPP legislation

Gif of man getting his hand slapped

cbs/Giphy

You can sue someone for filing a police report, but you better have a good reason for doing it.

In Zeppa v. Rea, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that police reports are a form of public interest expression. That means lawsuits targeting the author of a police report can be treated as strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) — and potentially dismissed.

Background: Karen Rea is a city councillor in Markham. Chris Zeppa is a real estate developer. They don’t like each other.

When Markham’s City Council approved one of Zeppa’s developments, Rea voiced her opposition and helped a group of her constituents file an appeal. Zeppa took exception. Then Rea and Zeppa ran into one another at a bar.

Rea was celebrating her reelection as councillor. She might have rubbed it in Zeppa’s face. Zeppa made a comment that Rea interpreted as a threat. Rea called the police and made a complaint, but the police didn’t end up laying charges.

When Zeppa learned about the police report, he reported Rea to Markham’s Integrity Commissioner and sued her for defamation. His lawsuit claimed $1.1MM in damages. Rea applied to dismiss the lawsuit. She relied on Ontario’s anti-SLAPP legislation — a screening mechanism that stops people from suing just to retaliate against legitimate public expression and debate.

The application judge at the Superior Court of Justice said that we can’t go around treating every police report as a matter of public interest. But the Court of Appeal disagreed. The Court of Appeal said that members of the public shouldn’t be exposed to litigation just for going to the police.

That doesn’t mean Zeppa’s lawsuit will be dismissed automatically, but he sure has an uphill battle. The only way for Zeppa to keep the vindictive train running is to prove that (i) his lawsuit has substantial merit; (ii) Rea has no defence to the lawsuit; and (iii) the harm caused by Rea’s actions outweigh the public interest in protecting police reports.

You win some you lose some: Zeppa seems to have taken the “L” in the Court proceedings, but the Integrity Commissioner did find that Rea acted in an unbecoming manner at the bar and recommended that City Council reprimand her.

Decision report card:

◻️◻️🙂◻️◻️ Factual interest

◻️◻️🙂◻️◻️ Legal interest

◻️◻️◻️◻️🤼 Bitter rivalries

QUOTE OF THE DAY

It’s tough putting your opinions in writing over the long course of a judicial career. What if you want to change your mind? We like the approach taken by Justice Slatter:

I can only echo the words of Baron Bramwell: “The matter does not appear to me now as it appears to have appeared to me then”

HEARSAY ROUNDUP

👑 Prabjot Singh Wirring needs to swear allegiance to the King if he wants to be a lawyer in Alberta. Wirring argued the required oath violates his rights to religious freedom and equality, but an Alberta judge disagreed. The judge accepted that Wirring’s religious beliefs prevent him from swearing allegiance to specific entities or people. But, the judge said the oath is a symbolic pledge to uphold the rule of law — it’s not a literal pledge of allegiance to the ruling monarch. So, Wirring’s misunderstanding of the oath is the problem, not the oath itself. Maybe Wirring will appeal to a Court that isn’t named the Court of King’s Bench.

🌳 Ontario tabled legislation that will return lands to Southern Ontario’s Greenbelt. The government removed the lands from the Greenbelt late last year, but reversed course in response to concerns about the removal process. The proposed legislation says affected developers can’t sue the government for flip-flopping.

🚽 B.C. will introduce legislation requiring every construction site with more than 25 workers to have flush toilets on the job site. A union of construction workers advocated for the change, calling existing porta-potties unsanitary and undignified.

🇮🇳 In a 3-2 split decision, the Supreme Court of India held that same sex couples do not have a right to marry under India’s Constitution. The Court said that any change to the status of same sex marriage must be made through legislation.