Toronto shuts down short-term rentals
on Dundas St. over safety fears
By Betsy Powell
20 August 2017
Kevin Cheng is
listed as the director of a company operating websites that offer
short-term rentals at locations on Dundas St. The Toronto Fire
Department has closed three of the buildings over fire and safety
issues. (Staff/ Toronto Star)
Toronto fire officials have taken the rare step of closing a string of
Dundas St. W. buildings after the owners repeatedly ignored orders to
fix fire and building safety issues.
At least 28 rooms inside adjoining two-storey buildings were rented on
a variety of travel websites, though apparently not on Airbnb.
The “drastic” step is the city’s latest attempt to manage the booming
short-term rental market and ensure the safety of guests, Toronto Fire
Services Deputy Chief Jim Jessop said.
“In our minds, this was a necessary and reasonable step to protect the public,” Jessop said.
To get the buildings closed, Toronto Fire Services presented evidence
to the province’s Office of the Fire Marshal for permission to change
the locks and remove anyone staying inside until the safety problems
“This is not a common step,” nor easily approved by the province’s fire
marshal, Jessop said. Permission was granted Friday afternoon.
“This step usually is in response to an owner that repeatedly has a
history of non-compliance with blatant disregard of violations of the
fire code, where there is no attempt to remedy the situation,” Jessop
said. “This is something that we don’t take lightly.”
Previous fire code violations for the properties are still before the courts.
The fire department requested the closure saying that 779, 783 and 787
Dundas St. W. appear to be of “combustible construction.” The
Electrical Safety Authority — a private safety regulator mandated by
the province —found “several shock and fire hazards.”
The two-storey buildings have approximately 28 individual rooms, the
fire department said in documents submitted to the fire marshal. “They
are being utilized by the travelling public and the occupant load
varies depending on the day,” the documents said.
Fire officials and police officers were present when the locks were
changed Friday at 779, 783 and 787 Dundas St. W., west of Bathurst St.
Notices were posted on the doors indicating the premises must remain
closed until inspectors are satisfied the safety violations have been
In addition to having concerns about electrical installations,
inspectors identified issues with exit routes and fire safety within
stairways, the documents said. As well, there is no supervisory staff
trained as required for a hotel, nor is there an approved fire safety
The city’s building department, Toronto Building, has also issued an
order prohibiting occupancy. Renters have been removed on three
“The city had commitments from the owner that the property would not be
used until all appropriate permits were issued,” said Mario Angelucci,
the city’s deputy chief building official. “Despite those commitments
the owners again began allowing occupancy for short-term stays.”
Angelucci said if there is continued non-compliance, “Toronto Building
will undertake further enforcement action in order to safeguard the
health and safety of the public and potential occupants.”
Ownership of the properties can be traced to a numbered Ontario company that is registered to Yen Ping Leung of Richmond Hill.
Her husband, Michael Cheng, and son Kevin Cheng are directors of a
company operating two websites offering short-term rentals at the
Dundas St. locations.
Neither man responded to the Star’s request for comment. Previously
Kevin Cheng told the Star they intended to comply with city orders.
The city proposes a regulatory framework that would limit short-term
rentals to a person’s primary residence. City staff will submit a final
set of proposals to council this year.
The city wants to curb short-term rentals operating as commercial
operations because they remove housing stock from the rental market in
Toronto. The city has an extremely low vacancy rate of 1.3 per cent.
The city has said that the 13 per cent of Toronto Airbnb hosts who had
multiple listings in 2016 would be forced to shut down if the
regulations are approved.
In the absence of regulations, short-term rentals have been operating
in a grey area, offering multiple listings in properties taxed at a
residential rate, not the much higher commercial property tax rate.
The city’s proposed regulations will also require hosts to comply with
municipal bylaws, meet Ontario building and fire code regulations, and
share safety and emergency information with guests.
City council will consider a regulation package, including a to-be-determined short-term-rental tax, at its December meeting.