Toronto lays 16 charges after short-term rental rules allegedly broken

TORONTO – The City of Toronto has laid 16 charges against people it says did not follow the city’s short-term rental rules because critics say the data-sharing agreement between the city and its larger short-term rental platform makes it much harder to apply.

The contract is an improvement over cities like Vancouver, where city officials do not have the power to remove problem lists, observers say, but one major flaw remains: that there is no obligation to the part of platforms like Airbnb to ensure that an ad follows the rules before it goes live.

“We need to go out and investigate, instead of not proactively allowing people on the platform to start,” said Toronto City Councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

“If we have to do it and comb through the thousands of ads, we don’t have the resources and it’s neither sustainable nor realistic.”

But a statement from Nathan Rotman, senior policy director at Airbnb Canada, said the company went beyond its obligations in the deal.

“Airbnb has gone beyond terms agreed with the City of Toronto, creating custom tools through Airbnb’s City Portal to help the city enforce its own law. The regulations have worked as expected, except that Airbnb remains the only licensed short-term rental platform in Toronto as other platforms continue to operate without rules or taxation, ”Rotman said. .

CTV News obtained the data sharing agreement through an access to information request. It was signed in December 2020 between the City of Toronto and Airbnb Ireland UC shortly before the short-term rental rules came into effect. These specify that the suites can be rented for less than 28 days if they are primary residences, and only if the operators have a license from the city.

Vancouver housing activist Rohana Rezel – who previously won the City of Vancouver’s contract with Airbnb – said Toronto’s contract is “more stringent” because it lets the city know much more about an ad given, including its rental period.

But the company doesn’t have to prove that a sequel is licensed before its list goes live, which is one of the reasons why bogus license numbers like “1234-ABCDEF” have blatantly popped up. slipped.

“As with Vancouver, the Toronto deal requires the city to monitor the platform and determine which listings are not compliant,” Rezel said.

Still, the larger data provides more scope for regulation that is followed in some European cities, Rezel said, such as a “nightcap” where if a city pushes for a rule limiting rentals to a certain number of nights, the city ​​could automate requests to deactivate ads beyond a certain threshold.

The data sharing agreement allows the City of Toronto to audit “any aspect of STR Company operations” to verify the accuracy of records, compliance with the law and compliance with the agreement.

The first four charges were against a Brampton man named Ameel Agha, who the city accuses of advertising and operating two short-term rental suites in a Yorkville tower block, without a license, in January .

Agha’s family claimed the units had been rented out as apartments for months. Agha told CTV News he was not interested in discussing the charges, saying, “There is no ‘my side of the story’.

The fifth charge involved a house in the Beaches neighborhood of Toronto. The owner told CTV News she dealt with the city about it last summer and believes it was resolved. She said she would try to resolve the issue with the city when she returned to Toronto.

The remaining charges were laid as CTV News Toronto requested information on the top five.

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