Toronto is mulling new Airbnb rules. Should Ottawa follow?

As Toronto considers new regulations to control Airbnb rentals, one expert is suggesting Ottawa should follow its lead.

Proposed restrictions aimed at preventing owners from listing multiple properties

Toronto is proposing new rules that would prevent people from listing multiple units on Airbnb. (John MacDougall/Getty Images)

As Toronto considers new regulations to control Airbnb rentals in that city, one expert is suggesting Ottawa should follow its lead.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has proposed restricting listings on the popular short-term rental site to primary dwellings. Airbnb's current model, which allows owners to list any property for rent, creates unstable neighbourhoods with transient populations, he said Monday. 

Tory said Airbnb also stifles an already overcrowded housing market.

"It's taking housing off the market that would otherwise be available for long-term rental," he said.

Rentals through the site can be as short as one night. 

Stays more than doubled 

Rodrigue Escayola, an Ottawa lawyer who has worked on Airbnb cases, said the real problem with Airbnb is when people start buying properties solely to rent them out at a high rate.

"You're basically seeing a neighbour operate a hotel out of their home or condo," Escayola said.

A 2016 report from the City of Ottawa's economic development branch found the number of active Airbnb listings had more than doubled in a year — from 566 in January 2015 to 1,314 by December.

As the number of Airbnb listings in Ottawa multiplies, the potential revenue entices more owners. 

City will turn into 'party town'

Escayola said Ottawa should weigh adopting rules similar to those being considered in Toronto, especially with Canada Day rapidly approaching. 

"I think it would put some clarity in people's minds," he said. "This city is going to turn into a party town, it's going to be the good, bad and ugly."

He's warning anyone who might be thinking of renting out their place this summer to first check the rules governing their property. Some condos and apartments have strict policies limiting how much owners can charge to sublet their units.

According to a report prepared for Airbnb, there were 82,000 "guest arrivals," or people staying in rentals booked through the site, in Ottawa last year, generating an estimated $24 million for the local economy.