How long-term stays on Airbnb can put Toronto renters at risk

When Tianning Ning and her family found a house in a quiet neighborhood near Yonge and St. Clair they were able to book on Airbnb for the 10 months that her husband would be a visiting professor at York University, it seemed perfect.

The comfortable four-bedroom home, close to good schools for their children, proved ideal, until Ning said their landlord abruptly ended their booking earlier in January, canceling it at the end of the month.

“I was extremely angry, and I think that’s just not fair,” Ning said in a recent interview.

“We’ve been here for six months and our children have gotten used to it, and we’ve organized our lives around it.”

This type of “medium to long-term” Airbnb stay is increasingly common in Toronto, with around 12,000 listed on the site, leaving tenants vulnerable to the whims of hosts and operating outside of formal leases in a fictional rental. market. They are not part of city ​​short term rental regulationsas ads older than 28 days are excluded, a loophole that advocates say is open to abuse.

In response to questions, the owner of 69 Walmsley Boulevard, Suzanne Porter, said in a text message that she was “unable to respond at this time”. She added that “the issue is currently being addressed by Airbnb to resolve it.”

Coming from Switzerland, Ning and her family needed the flexibility to stay for only two university semesters and lacked the Canadian credit ratings to break into the traditional rental market. Ning said she booked a stay of about 10 months, from late summer 2022 to late June 2023, through Airbnb for the price of $5,150 per month, before taxes and service charges.

But in early January, according to Ning and screenshots of the messages she provided, Porter sent them a notice saying she should return to the property with her own family, and that they should leave by then. end of the month. The list was later amended to end on January 31.

After an exchange with Airbnb, of which she also provided screenshots, Ning said she was told the reservation had been canceled due to an emergency. Airbnb offered a voucher and suggested another listing 10km away, she said.

In response to a list of questions, an Airbnb spokesperson said in an email: “Cancellations like this are rare, but when they do happen, we are committed to supporting our guests. Our team customer service is in contact with this guest and provides ongoing assistance, including with rebooking.

Under Toronto’s new short-term rental rules that came into effect in early 2021 (in an effort to regulate Airbnb and other similar sites), listings must be registered and must be primary residences. But houses rented for more than 28 days are exempt. Staff are aware of about 12,000 of them listed on Airbnb across the city, spokesperson Ashika Theyyil said.

These new rules mean listings that aren’t primary residences have been placed in the 28+ day category, said Thorben Wieditz, director of advocacy group Fairbnb Canada.

This has created a mid-term rental market that is of growing concern to supporters like him.

“In a tight housing market like Toronto’s, where it’s very difficult to even find an available unit, Airbnb can become a mediator between landlords and tenants,” Wieditz said.

This is for landlords who want no strings attached and “hope they can end the tenancy with the click of a mouse”, he added. “We have to figure out how to deal with this and how to close this legal gray and make people aware of their rights.

City staff were supposed to report back to council on what to do about these 28-plus-day registrations in April 2022, but that didn’t materialize. Instead, city spokesman Theyyil said an update was expected by the end of 2023.

Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Subway Tenant Associations, said he started receiving calls about these types of medium-to-long-term stay cancellations on sites like Airbnb with “increasing frequency” early in the year. the pandemic, and now about one a week.

He said they would be covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, and landlords should follow the appropriate avenues of eviction, in limited circumstances. But many tenants might not realize their rights in this situation. Indeed, illegal and fraudulent expulsion is the “most important problem” facing their organization.

As for Ning, she wants other tenants to be aware of her situation in order to warn them of this “significant policy gap”, especially newcomers to Canada who she says are particularly at risk.

Other comparable properties in the neighborhood that would allow her children to stay enrolled in local schools are much more expensive, she said. She has no intention of leaving.

“We have the right to stay, there is no doubt about it, so we will stay.”


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of conduct. The Star does not share these opinions.

Comments are closed.