“1234-ABCDEF”: an application deviation can be at the origin of hundreds of false short-term rental permits

TORONTO – A sweeping crackdown on short-term rental platform Airbnb has cut thousands of listings that don’t appear to comply with new City of Toronto rules – and a gap in the app may explain the hundreds that apparently remain.

It is estimated that 1,500 short-term rental listings in Toronto still display license codes that do not match those given by city staff – including a code, “STR-1234-ABCDEF”, against which Airbnb has now taken direct action after a CTV News investigation. .

The company says it filters new listings based on whether or not they claim to have a license, but doesn’t check the list of cities, claiming it’s a job for the city – so even an obvious fake could pass.

Meanwhile, a city councilor said the city was struggling to process thousands of license applications and needed more people to do all the work required.

“It’s the Wild West,” Danforth advisor Paula Fletcher said. “It’s time to say, ‘Here is the rulebook. We play by the rules. Maybe the city needs to improve its game and enforce it. “

Under the City of Toronto rules that came into effect in January, people can only list their primary residence for 28 days and they need a license that must be displayed in their Airbnb listing.

The idea behind the licensing system is to allow residents to make money using their homes as hotels on a limited basis, but to curb tourism and ensure that suites that may have been converted into hotels can remain as hotels. rental houses.

CTV News took a look at the digital “restorations” of Toronto Airbnb listings taken by a New York-based project, Inside Airbnb, and compared them to the list of municipal licenses approved as of Feb. 1.

In a January 2 survey, there appeared to be 13,518 short-term rentals, and of these, 12,909 did not appear to have a license number corresponding to a list of cities.

But as of January 11 from Inside Airbnb, the number of short-term rental listings had fallen to just 3,977, and of those 1,549, it didn’t appear to have a license that matched the city’s listing.

Airbnb has confirmed that the company has moved many online listings from short-term rentals to rentals with a minimum term of more than 28 days, but did not provide exact figures.

However, it seems that some of these lists declaring a license – even though that license did not match the list of cities – alone.

Company officials said it was up to the city of Toronto, using a service called CityPortal, to report those listings.

When presented with the example “STR-1234-ABCDEF” by CTV News, company officials said they reported this list as it would if city inspectors had used CityPortal. When CTV News checked late Wednesday, that listing had a minimum booking of 28 days.


The list operator did not return the calls. A manual check of some of the other listings found an operator with 18 listings, all of which appeared to display license numbers not granted by the city.

“It’s a joke,” said Thorben Wieditz of Fairbnb, a group that has criticized short-term rentals that encroach on housing. “The question we’re asking ourselves is why they’re still online or why they haven’t taken them off the list or turned them off. “

Toronto City Council will meet on Tuesday with an agenda item to discuss this matter. A report from the city says it received 96 complaints in January, issued four charges and one notice of violation. The city said it plans to hire a company to digitally scan the ads as well.

The report also indicates that there were 2,744 license applications approved, 34 canceled, 15 refused, nine revoked, 135 it intends to refuse and 326 under review.

Airbnb itself was licensed as a platform on December 18, according to the report, and Booking.com is still in the licensing process.

“Other companies have chosen to end their short-term rental operations in Toronto and not get a license, such as Expedia and TripAdvisor,” the report said.

In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Airbnb said its tool, Airbnb City Portal, helps cities enforce rental rules.

“In implementing its STR law, we are extremely proud that Toronto has used the Airbnb city portal, a tool we recently created to help cities enforce the law and rebuild the Canadian economy. tourism, ”said Airbnb. “When places like Vancouver, San Francisco and Japan implemented short-term rental rules similar to those in Toronto, the Airbnb community benefited from regulatory certainty and was able to grow as it went. as we move forward – and we expect Toronto to be no different. “

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