Toronto begins laying charges for short-term rental non-compliance

By Erick Espinosa

It has been nearly a month since the city implemented new short-term rental regulations, requiring hosts to only rent out their primary residence and to be registered as a short-term rental property prior to the deadline of December 31, 2020.

Based on investigations completed to date, the City of Toronto has issued one notice of violation against short-term rentals and laid five charges.

The numbers might seem small, but Lyne Kyle from the City of Toronto’s municipal licensing & standards (MLS) department tells CityNews that these investigations take time and several cases are in the process of being examined.

“Each complaint that the city receives needs to be investigated thoroughly in order to ensure we have sufficient evidence should the matter go before the courts,” she said.

Between January 1 and 24, the City has received 96 complaints via 311 regarding perceived short-term rentals. The complaints are passed on to bylaw officers to investigate.

According to InsideAirbnb, as of January 2, there were over 18,000 Airbnb listings. However, the city’s open data portal shows only over 2700 registrations numbers have been handed out to date and 282 applications are in the process of review.

This does not mean that those are all “illegal listings” as the city continues to receive applications past the deadline. Over the past two weeks, they have received an average of 1 to 20 applications a day.

While tardiness is always expected by some individuals in the application process, so is fraud. With the registration numbers being made public, there have been examples of numbers being stolen, repeated or falsified on active listings.

The city is well aware of this, but also clarifies that “not all listings on Airbnb are short-term rentals.”

Airbnb also lists hotels or long-term rentals over 28 days, which are not required under the bylaw to register with the City of Toronto. Also, under the conditions of their license, Airbnb is required to remove any listings that are not following the regulations.

“The City has a good working relationship with Airbnb and we are working together to bring all listings into compliance,” said Kyle.

But since the changes were announced prior to the pandemic, some are expressing concern about living next door to short-term rental units that usually house out-of-town visitors.

One CityNews viewer who prefers to remain anonymous expressed concern over Airbnb “quarantine suites,” alleging that they have witnessed multiple travelers in the building.

“I contacted 311 and public health because I feel unsafe with all these travelers coming in and out,” they said. “Property management in the summer stated that [more than] 40 suites in our condominium were being used as illegal quarantine lodges, but they never did anything to stop it.”

The property in question is The Element Condominium located on Blue Jays Way. According to the resident, there have been no changes leading into the new year.

CityNews reached out to both the condo board and property management, Crossbrigdes Condominium Service, to confirm the information, but did not receive a response back.

According to MLS however, it is not the responsibility of the building itself to monitor short-term rentals.

“The onus is on the operators of short-term rentals. Some condo boards have created their own requirements prohibiting short-term rentals within their buildings but this does not fall under the Licensing and Registration of Short-Term Rentals Bylaw,” said Kyle.

Some Toronto Airbnb listings state that they do offer extra sterilization and grocery delivery to those quarantining, but under current provincial regulations, short-term rentals can only be provided to individuals who are in need of housing.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is responsible for carrying out checks to ensure individuals are quarantining appropriately, says Kyle. The City’s role is to ensure operators are following the Licensing and Registration of Short-Term Rentals Bylaw.

Short-term rental operators that do not comply with the regulations can be found guilty of an offense and may be liable to pay a fine of up to $100,000. Operators can also be charged other fines

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