Toronto tightens enforcement of Airbnb and short-term rental rules

Toronto has stepped up enforcement of its year-long rules on short-term rental licenses, the head of the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) department said.

MLS executive director Carleton Grant said law enforcement officers were carrying out random, complaint-based inspections of some properties as short-term rental registrations were up for renewal.

The registration system, requiring short-term rental owners to register for a municipal license, went into effect Jan. 1, 2021, but Grant said Toronto by-law officers have been busy part of last year enforcing COVID-19 regulations.

“Originally, enforcement was very much about educating people about regulations and investigating. We did (media) campaigns and then last year we started working with auditors and data discovery techniques – looking at websites and where operators were posting their listings,” he said. .

When those audits show a large number of listings for basement apartment rentals, for example, law enforcement officers target them for inspections, he said.

Under the settlement, landlords cannot rent basement apartments or secondary suites on a short-term basis if they are self-contained units with kitchens and bathrooms. Only a full-time renter – the primary resident of this suite – can advertise it as a short-term rental.

Grant said the short-term rental regulations were designed to ensure that tourist accommodation does not replace affordable rental housing.

“We wanted people to rent that basement apartment or that second suite in your backyard as rental housing for 12 months for someone who needed it,” he said.

So far this year, only two short-term rental charges have been filed with the courts, both for operating without a municipal license.

Last year, there were 105 charges related to the short-term rental settlement. Fourteen involved businesses or landlords operating unlicensed short-term rentals. Airbnb and are the only two licensed short-term rental platforms in Toronto.

This year’s enhanced enforcement comes as MLS was publicly criticized this week by a Toronto lawyer. Write in an online publication BlogTOMarc Goldgrub from Professional Corporation of Green Economy Law accused MLS of an “absurd and ridiculous” interpretation of the short-term rental regulations as they apply to landlords running ghost hotels through third-party managers.

Ghost hotels are homes and condos that are operated exclusively as short-term rentals without any primary resident living there, as required by regulation.

He complained to the city last spring about its failure to charge the owner of a downtown home that neighbors said was being used for parties. Although charges have been laid and the short-term rental license has been revoked, the owner of the home has not been charged.

That’s because MLS is suing the short-term rental operator, according to Grant. This can be a tenant or a third party such as a property manager. Ideally, MLS wants to deal with the party that’s signed up to the city’s short-term rental system because their primary interest is ensuring compliance with the bylaw, he said.

But Goldgrub said many landlords hire other people to manage their property.

He says the regulations “do not say that only a (short-term rental) operator can be charged”.

“If a landlord is clearly hiring someone to engage in illegal activity – for example short-term rentals where the person offering the rental does not live in the property, nor does the landlord – then he should be held responsible for facilitating this illegal activity,” he said.

“The city should charge ghost hotel owners if they simply outsource management. At the end of the day, they are the ones who essentially facilitate short-term rentals,” he said.

Grant said that when developing the bylaw, Toronto City Council considered making owners of rented properties liable for short-term rentals. But he decided against it in order to grant tenants the right to act as legal short-term rental landlords in their own accommodation.

Councilwoman Paula Fletcher, who sits on the planning and housing committee, said she wanted to be sure short-term rental operators wouldn’t change their business model and hire third parties to avoid the responsibility for what happens on their properties.

While it’s true that landlords can avoid being charged by outsourcing short-term rental operations to others, “it’s not an escape, it’s a sinkhole,” she said. – which would be extremely unfair to licensed short-term rental operators who follow the rules

Grant said the city’s 2022 budget allows for the hiring of another supervisor and seven new law enforcement officers to swell the current staff of three.

There are about 4,500 licensed short-term rentals in Toronto, up from 15,000 announced before the pandemic. Some have disappeared due to lack of travel over the past two years.

A report presented to the city’s housing committee last year said 42% of short-term commercial rentals – properties where there is no permanent resident – returned to the long-term rental market. term once the city by-law comes into effect.

Thorben Wieditz of Fairbnb, a coalition that has lobbied for the settlement regulating short-term rentals, said he’s still worried about rentals operating without the city’s required registration.

“We think there are still a lot of unlicensed ads online, and those ads will likely all be ads offered for 28 days or more,” he said.

The regulations state that short-term rentals can only be rented for a maximum of 28 consecutive days.


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