Airbnb ban? Not likely to happen, councillors say
CBC News
06 September 2016

City councils in both Toronto and Mississauga are considering their options for regulating the short-term vacation-rental service Airbnb, but some councillors say an outright ban is likely not possible.

Mississauga Coun. Karen Ras and Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam have put forward motions at their respective councils to look at how the online rental service, whereby vacationers rent private homes on a short-term basis, could be regulated.

The moves come amid complaints from residents in both cities that houses and condos in their neighbourhoods are being rented out to people who then go on to have loud parties, or don't follow condo rules and regulations.

Asked whether an outright ban is being considered, both councillors said such a move would likely be impossible to enforce.

"I'm not sure that's doable," Ras told CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday.

Even trying to license the business would be difficult to enforce, she said.

"So why not work with Airbnb to have a better complaint system. Why don't we educate users as to what their rights and responsibilities are?" she said.

In Toronto, Wong-Tam said of a ban she's "not sure that's a road we need to go down." Rather, any regulations must focus on better consumer protection but also maintain public safety.

"I think the city has the right to regulate land use, and those type of zoning bylaws are in place especially to make sure that everyone is aware that when you purchase a property, this is what you get to do with it," she told Metro Morning.

'A whole host of issues'
Neither city has regulations governing short-term rentals, though the issue has become a hot topic in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, a group of residents and owners at a downtown Toronto condo took back control of their building from short-term rental companies they said had turned their home into a hotel.

The group said other short-term rental companies, like WhiteHall Suites and Red Maple Suites, were doing business in the building near Wellington and John streets, in violation of the condo rules that say the shortest rental period is one year.

The companies lease units from owners and then rent them on travel booking sites.

In other cases, owners themselves are renting the units on sites like Airbnb.

In Mississauga, the issue came to a head in the spring, when a home on Snowflake Lane became a party house, rented to different people nearly every weekend for the express purpose of throwing parties.

The best the city could do in that case was send bylaw enforcement officers and police to do regular checks, and have parking enforcement officers issue tickets to vehicles parked unlawfully.

Ras said noise, drug-use and garbage issues are the biggest concerns she hears from residents, and she's hearing these complaints with increasing frequency.

"There's a whole host of issues that come up with these party houses," Ras said. "It's not the law-abiding renters who are causing these issues."

'Something else will pop up'
Wong-Tam said she, too, is hearing complaints about short-term rentals more often.

"It seems that Airbnb units are popping up everywhere," she said.

"We need to build a regulatory framework so everybody knows how they are supposed to be operating."

Other short-term rental accommodations, such as rooming houses, are licensed and inspected by the city, Wong-Tam noted.

"That is not the case when a house is converted into an Airbnb unit."

Municipalities have control over land-use planning and zoning, she said, so some kind of regulatory framework should be possible.

Neither councillor knows exactly what regulations may be coming down the pipe in their cities, but the online sharing economy will only keep growing, Ras said.

 "I'm not sure there is a silver bullet because something else will pop up."


Will Mississauga Ban Airbnb?
By Ashley Newport
08 September 2016

For a lot of homeowners and travelers, Airbnb has been invaluable.

For some politicians and their constituents, however, it has been a nightmare.

Back in May, reports emerged that an Airbnb rental property -- or rather, an Airbnb Party House -- was making life miserable for some residents in Meadowvale. Councillor Sue McFadden told the Mississauga News that the house -- located at 6323 Snowflake Lane -- had been a haven for raucous partiers for three months and that the most she could do was send bylaw enforcement officers to continously deal with the fallout of the wild tenancy.

A month earlier, Toronto Life published a personal essay by a Toronto woman who had her home trashed by a tenant who actually hired a DJ—HIRED A DJ!—to spin in her living room. One of the uninvited guests even thought it appropriate to take a shower and wash their sweaty locks with a bottle of Playboy shampoo (that they graciously left behind, to be fair). The damage totaled more than $35,000.

While such incidents are isolated and not indicative of a pattern of behavioral problems among Airbnb or other short-term tenants, some residents and city councillors feel that the organization needs to be regulated or otherwise controlled on a municipal level.

"The problem is people with no pride of ownership having parties and having no regard for noise or neighbours or parking or garbage," says Mississauga Ward 2 Councillor Karen Ras. "There should be an education campaign. The city is looking into a motion to look at this [short-term rental] industry to see if there are regulations or licensing or oversight we can put on Airbnb and other short-term rental companies."

Ras, however, is clear that an outright ban isn't in the cards—and that it's difficult for municipalities to regulate industries that are already thriving by the time they enter their wards.

"I don't think an outright ban is feasible," she says. "Every other city is dealing with the same issue and the challenge with the sharing economy is that cities don't have much flexibility when it comes to dealing with it. How can we get ahead of issues [before they happen]? We need to get out ahead instead of being reactive."

Another issue, Ras says, is the impact the industry has on Peel's precarious rental market.

"Our rental vacancy rates in Peel are very low, under two per cent," she says. "Short-term rentals are lucrative for homeowners, but they deplete the rental stock for people looking for long-term homes."

While short-term rentals aren't new, Airbnb is probably one of the most visible organizations that links homeowners with tenants looking for a space for a few days or weeks. A quick glance at the company's website reveals dozens of listings for Mississauga alone—a clear indication that people will continue to use the service to make extra cash or save a little dough on accommodations. While most tenants are well behaved, the few who are not tend to cause the most memorable headaches—and, for many residents and city councillors, it's frustrating to not be able to hold landlords, tenants or the rental companies themselves accountable.

"It's always just a few bad examples of people being disruptive to the neighbourhood," says Ras. "I have a friend in Toronto who had his place trashed by Airbnb renters. We expect a level of decorum and safety in our city and this takes that away and creates fear."

So, what can Mississauga do to stop bad behavior before it happens?
"Education for online companies," she says. "Is there a way for neighbours to complain to them so they can step in and help? We have city staff looking at mechanisms used across North America to see what works, but I don't know what that framework will look like yet."

Ras says that controlling these types of markets is notoriously difficult and mentions the case of Collingwood. The picturesque town hasn't had trouble dealing with Airbnb per se, but the influx of short-term vacationers has, at times, made life difficult for residents.

"Collingwood has had minimal success with licensing," she says. "[The question is], if you put a bylaw in place, will it stick or will it be taken to court? There should be an onus on the companies to lay out a code of conduct for the landlord and set out expectations for tenants."

As far as city regulations go, council is currently assembling a report addressing the issue. Ras expects that report to be released sometime this fall.

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