A homeowner in Vaughn is raising issue around the safety and security of short-term rentals, following a shooting at her home back in September.
Busi Mlostshwa, who lives in the basement of her home on Petticoat Road, says she escaped being nearly struck herself last month, when a shooting broke out during an unauthorized party put on by her Airbnb guests.
“That moment is just going to mess with my head,” Mlostshwa said. “One of those bullets could have struck me, it’s a real situation. They threatened my life.”
York Regional Police were called for reports of multiple shots fired around 3 a.m. on Sept. 22. Investigators later released surveillance video showing multiple people fleeing as several gunshots were heard. Police said at least 20 shell casings were located at the home, confirming a party was taking place at that time.
Following the shooting, Mlostshwa said the guests left the scene, and took her keys with them. She has since had no communication with them and has changed her locks.
Aftermath of the shooting
Mlostshwa tells CityNews she is currently not accepting any listings on Airbnb, and is planning on removing the home off the website once the insurance investigation is completed. criticizing the company for not yet visiting her at her home and providing her with support.
“This is already two weeks later, when are they planning on coming to access and start fixing my house so my life can get back to normal?” Mlostshwa asks. “I had to go for therapy for the first time in my life.”
In a statement to CityNews, a spokesperson from Airbnb said negative incidents are rare.
“The reported behavior is appalling and we have removed the booking guest from our community,” Charlie Urbanic writes. “Airbnb provides hosts with protection against property damage through our $1 Million Host Guarantee and we have reached out to Ms. Mlostshwa to help them initiate a claim.”
The spokesperson also said Mlostshwa was reimbursed for a lock change and one-night hotel stay, and that they’re also ready to assist her with counseling.
Airbnb safety screenings
The website, which reports two million clients checking in nightly, claims negative incidents are rare and there are measures in place from preventing ‘bad actors’ from accessing their platform, using a score system that assesses the risks of the reservations.
“We have a real-time detection system that uses machine learning and predictive analytics to instantly evaluate hundreds of signals to flag and then stop any suspicious activity,” Urbanic said. “When we detect potentially concerning behavior, our team takes a range of actions, including removing a user from the platform entirely. “
The company also states that they provide property damage protection for free to hosts, and have an insurance program in place in the event of “third-party claims of property damage or bodily injury of $1,000,000.”
Concerns over lack of Airbnb Regulations
CityNews spoke to a number of residents near the Dufferin Street and Major Mackenzie Drive intersection who expressed concern over rising issues coming from short-term rental units on their streets. Several residents say they were home during last month’s shooting, and witnessed part of the ordeal that they say also included people jumping fences.
Bob Skrivanic, lives in the area, and said this isn’t an isolated incident and there have been multiple issues with short-term rental guests in their neighbourhood.
“Who’s coming in, who’s checking this out, that’s our main concern,” said Bob Skrivanic. “It’s been bad news since day one. I don’t think they should be in neighbourhoods like these, they should be in more urban or located in a power center versus in the middle of suburbia.”
A screen shot of a post on a residents Facebook page also states neighbours have filed complaints with Airbnb.
In recent years, the short-term rental market has faced a slew of criticism over a number of violent incidents in and around the GTA. In one of the most recent, a man suffered life-threatening injuries following a shooting at a home in the Bridle Path back in August.
The city of Vaughan has also been victim to these violent incidents. Last May, a man was shot to death at a home that had been rented from Airbnb. At that time, a city spokesperson said a review on short-term rentals was underway. More than one year later, they’re moving ahead.
“The city is taking action to regulate short-term rental housing, such as Airbnb and Expedia, by developing the necessary regulations that will establish control measures, inspection powers and penalty framework and will identify any home in Vaughan that provides short-term accommodations,” said a statement to CityNews. “This will give the City of Vaughan the necessary power to regulate these activities through strict regulation.”
The spokesperson said this would give the city power to use strict regulations targeting both homeowners and the short-term rental companies. The city is providing updates on these developments on their website.