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Proposed short-term rental regs see early support

Stakeholders call for fair rules, effective enforcement ahead of consultation
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
By Michelle Ervin

Proposed regulations for short-term rentals in Toronto saw early signs of support, with a few exceptions, when a staff report went before executive committee last week. Many short-term rental hosts, including some condo unit owners, welcomed rules, provided that they’re fair. Other stakeholders, including some condo board directors, expressed general support, adding that rules would have to be accompanied by adequate enforcement and penalties in order to be effective.

After hearing from more than three dozen speakers, executive committee voted to have staff consult the public on proposed licensing and regulations for short-term rentals in Toronto. A related zoning bylaw change, which would create a short-term rental use, will also be subject to community meetings. Executive committee also asked staff to recommend and solicit input on possible penalties for home-sharing operators and platforms that flout rules as well as ways to require proof of principal residence.

In their current form, the proposed regulations would restrict short-term rentals to the home-sharing variety, where property owners rent out all or part of their principal residence for stretches of fewer than 29 days. The regulations would also require short-term rental operators to register with the city and short-term rental platforms to be licensed.

Short-term rental hosts talked about hosting responsibly without incident and touted the benefits of the practice, such as boosting local business, earning extra income and supporting Toronto tourism. Some of the short-term rental hosts, although welcoming of rules, urged against additional restrictions, such as a limit on the number of days per year a home can be shared.

Other stakeholders voiced some outstanding concerns, including condo residents operating short-term rentals in breach of building rules and short-term rental platforms saddling condo corporations with the extra costs that come with increased foot-traffic in their buildings.

Steven Tufts, a member of the Fairbnb Coalition, told executive committee that he found the contemplated regulations to be fair and balanced overall, but flagged a few issues for further attention.

“If a unit is to be rented by a condo resident, evidence must be provided that the condo regulations allow short-term rentals,” said Tufts. “While some condos are open to such activities, many are not.”

Mara Epstein, a condo board president and representative of the Bloor East Neighbourhood Association, suggested to executive committee that condominium documents or lease agreements could be used during the registration of operators to verify this.

“It is currently very difficult for condominium corporations and property management teams to enforce short-term rental regulatory compliance by both property owners and their tenants,” said Epstein, “as we have extremely limited authority and an ever-growing lack of bandwidth to do so.”

Epstein added that she would like to see a list of condo buildings that allow short-term rentals created through self-identification.

For the Residences of Maple Leaf Square, which attracts a lot of short-term rental guests, the increased wear and tear on common elements was a concern.

Elevator reliability — already a major problem in our City — suffers from extra usage brought by short-term rentals,” wrote Davin Michael Garg, VP of TSCC 2130, on behalf of his condo corporation. “We are also not equipped, financially and otherwise, for the additional demands on our security, cleaning staff, property management, and insurance.

“Amenities such as the pool, gym, and terrace also see higher need for maintenance and repair.”

In a letter to executive committee, Garg argued that it’s not fair for condo owners and residents to absorb the associated uptick in expenses. He called for the regulations to hold short-term rental platforms accountable for compensating condo corporations for what he said should be costs of doing business.

Some condo corporations expressly allow or ban short-term rentals in their governing documents, while others are silent on the issue. Under the proposed regulations, which permit home sharing, condo corporations would continue to be able to establish community-specific guidelines through their declarations, bylaws and rules.

Alyas Ali, who rents his condo unit on a short-term basis when away, told executive committee that he was pleased to see that the proposed regulations do not impose a “blackout” on condos. Asked whether the practice is permitted in his building, Ali explained that, while others have run afoul of the condo board, he has an agreement in place that allows him to host, which he does with regard for his neighbours.

“It’s fine to have a great time, but it’s important to remember that these are people’s homes, and I’ve yet to experience these wild parties or a guest that has been cause for complaints at all,” said Ali.

The staff report containing the proposed regulations showed that the city received 20 noise complaints about short-term rentals via its 311 line over the span of close to three-and-a-half years. Airbnb employee Todd Hofley pointed out this figure to executive committee, decrying the “anecdotal evidence” and “hyperbole” in portrayals of how home-sharing is affecting condos.

Hofley also serves as president of his condo board and of a residents’ association representing 18 condo corporations in Liberty Village. He listed off noise and party complaints as being among the many issues he confronts as a condo board president, but described them as a fact of multi-residential living as opposed to a side effect of short-term rentals.

“As a president, all of these issues are real, they are substantive and they are of constant concern, but they are also occurring all the time, across the city, in every condo or rental building,” said Hofley.

Nick Christoforou, a resident who rents out a spare bedroom in his condo unit on a short-term basis, told executive committee that his guests have been quiet and respectful.

“I’m here to greet my guests when they arrive, and to supervise, and do not burden our concierge by having them drop keys off,” said Christoforou.

Similarly, Vanessa Tam told executive committee that she rents out a spare bedroom in her condo unit on a short-term basis.

“I hope to continue sharing my condo without a night cap [a limit on the number of days per year a home can be offered for short-term rental] and doing it responsibly,” said Tam.

Executive committee also heard from short-term rental operators who wished to continue the practice but would be precluded from doing so under the regulations as currently proposed. That included commercial operators renting out multiple units and home owners renting out secondary residences including condo units.

Coun. Cesar Palacio moved to have staff look into the revising the restriction on short-term rentals to “one Toronto residence” from “principal residence,” as long as the residence in question was not being displaced from the long-term rental market, but his motion failed.

Following community meetings and public consultations, city staff are expected to report back to the municipal licensing and standards committee on the proposed regulations for short-term rentals and to the planning and growth management committee on the accompanying zoning bylaw changes. This is due to happen before the end of the year.

Michelle Ervin is the editor of CondoBusiness.

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