She’s so disheartened she’s planning to not just move out of the Okanagan, but out of the country.
A young woman is sharing her story to raise awareness about how ‘ghost hotels’ or commercial short-term rentals in the Kelowna area are pushing people out of the region.
Madison Dobra and her partner had been renting a unit in a fourplex in Kelowna for about two-and-a-half years when they, and all the tenants of the building, received an eviction notice in April 2022. The owners of the fourplex said a family member was going to rent the units, however Dobra had her doubts about that claim.
“We ended up moving out and within a month I found all of the units on Airbnb,” she told Castanet.
That was just the beginning of her journey.
She spent months and quite a bit of money to gather information and file a complaint with the BC Residential Tenancy Branch. One of her neighbours also went to the RTB seeking compensation.
A year later, on April 4, 2023, an RTB panel heard her case and the next day ordered the owner of the fourplex to pay Dobra and her partner more than $22,000 — a year's worth of rent payments. The owners were also told to pay the tenant who lived downstairs $17,500.
The owners refused to pay and launched an appeal, which was denied, but Dobra hasn’t seen a dime. “I sent out a new letter of demand saying, look, you tried to do this, you tried to fight it and you failed, so you still owe us this money. I asked them to pay it by Sept. 17 and they have still not paid us."
“Unfortunately, because there’s no real system in place for the tenancy board to force these people to pay us the money that they owe us, we now have to go through small claims court.”
She argues that the owners should have been more than capable of paying because they were charging $300 a night for the four units on Airbnb.
The couple ended up moving into a smaller, more expensive home. Their rent went from less than $1,900 to $2,500 a month plus utilities. Dobra says the conditions in the new rental were "unliveable" with the pipes freezing up in the winter. When their lease was up, they didn’t renew and now live in a RV in Vernon.
She claims she was pushed out of her home by greed and calls the whole situation disheartening.
“I think this is a huge part of why we have such a huge homeless population. I’ve lived in Kelowna for 10 years. I work in the service industry, I’ve worked in hospitality and a community like Kelowna that’s based on tourism and things like this, these Airbnbs that are kicking out the people that run our community. It’s going to be really funny when all we have left is tourists staying in Airbnbs but nobody there to serve them at restaurants or serve them in stores they want to shop at.”
She doesn’t know what the solution is but says one step would be to limit the number of short-term rental properties one person or landlord can own.
The couple is trying to save money to leave Canada altogether. They hope to settle in either Costa Rica or Nicaragua.
“Because seeing how broken just this system is alone it’s like, I don’t even want to be living in a country this broken anymore,” Dobra says.
A recent report commissioned by Fairbnb Canada Network found that the number of commercial short-term rentals or ‘ghost hotels’ in the Thompson-Okanagan increased by 40% between 2021 and 2022, and jumped another 17.6% from June 2022 to June 2023.