The shooting deaths of three men at a waterfront property rented through Airbnb on Friday night has once again raised an issue of increasing alarm to Toronto residents: what are city councillors and officials doing about short-term rentals and the intermittent mayhem that can surround them?
The City of Toronto has a bylaw in place to regulate short-term rentals but officials are taking a go-slow approach on enforcement, instead requiring property owners who qualify to begin registering with the municipality in the coming months and to start paying a Municipal Accommodation Tax.
On Saturday, Coun. Joe Cressy (Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York), who represents the area where the shootings occurred — in which two others were injured — called on short-term rental operators to voluntarily “delist” units that don’t qualify under the city’s new bylaw requirements.
In a statement, Cressy said “this brutal and traumatic incident … underscores the urgent need for proper regulation and oversight of short-term rentals, including Airbnb.”
“There’s absolutely nothing preventing short-term rentals operators like Airbnb from removing listings (that don’t qualify under the bylaw) today. They could do it and if they wanted to be part of the solution, they could do that in a heartbeat,” Cressy said in an interview.
Jason Cherniak, a lawyer for several local property owners — some registered with Airbnb and other platforms — acknowledged the city’s rules are legal for the time being following a decision by the provincial Local Planning Appeal Tribunal in November, which upheld a bylaw approved by city council in 2017 that was to take effect in June 2018.
The city’s bylaw was placed in limbo pending the tribunal’s decision.
Cherniak told the Star he filed a motion to appeal the LPAT’s decision and has subsequently filed a factum providing more detail on the reasons for his clients’ appeal and is awaiting a response from the city. The motion will be heard by a single judge who will then decide if it has sufficient merit to go before a three-judge panel of the divisional court. In the meantime, the city’s bylaw is in effect, Cherniak said.
Under the city’s bylaw, homeowners are allowed to rent up to three bedrooms in their properties for an unlimited number of nights per year as long as the stays do not exceed 28 days. Homeowners can also rent their entire homes for a maximum of 180 days a year.
Homeowners are also prohibited from renting out basement units for short-term rentals. Occupants of those units can rent them out for 28 days or less.
But the bylaw only allows short-term rentals of properties used as the principal residence of an owner or tenant. Properties used as short-term rentals for tourists, for example, by landlords who don’t reside there will no longer allowed under the new city bylaw.
City officials recently announced they are launching a registry beginning in the spring of this year, which will give short-term rental property owners three months to list their properties and to begin playing a four per cent Municipal Accommodation Tax on a quarterly basis.
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