Toronto

311 complaints about short-term rentals have skyrocketed in Toronto

The Ice Condos tops the list of addresses with the most 311 complaints about short-term rentals in Toronto, according to eight years of data obtained by CBC News from the city.

Ice Condos resident not surprised her building has the most 311 complaints about short-term rentals

Becca Young, who lives in the Ice Condos, thinks Toronto's proposed short-term rental regulations would be "transformative" for her building if they ever go into effect and are enforced. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

Loud parties, pizza boxes and vomit are an annoying, yet predictable part of daily life for those who live in the Ice Condos alongside a bunch of Airbnbs, according to resident Becca Young.

But more serious short-term rental incidents in the downtown Toronto building — like an accidental shooting in December — have left her and her husband worried about their three-year-old son's safety.

"We had him sleeping with us for a few nights because we honestly couldn't get the image of a bullet going through a wall by accident out of our heads," she told CBC News.

"He sleeps right against the wall that's shared with the party unit next door — where they're often fighting, screaming, you know, drunk or whatever, in the middle of the night."

And it looks like Young isn't the only one having issues in the building.

The Ice Condos tops the list of addresses with the most 311 complaints about short-term rentals in Toronto, according to eight years of data CBC News obtained from the city.

The ranking is understandable given the building's location in the Waterfront Communities, which a CBC News analysis found has the most Airbnbs of any neighbourhood in Toronto.

The 311 data also shows that complaints about short-term rentals have skyrocketed over the last eight years, going from just nine in 2010 to 317 in Toronto last year.

It's a jump that doesn't surprise Mark Sraga — the man in charge of the bylaw officers who investigate those complaints for Municipal Licensing and Standards.

CBC News obtained eight years of data on 311 complaints about short-term rentals from the City of Toronto. (CBC News)

Sraga attributes the rise to how easy platforms like Airbnb are to use, and to how, as a result of their popularity, most people know about short-term rentals — and are more quick to blame them for noise.

"How many of those complaints are truly short-term rentals versus not? We don't know," said Sraga.

"We don't have that information because of our challenges in determining that use."

Just a short walk away from the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Scotiabank Arena, the Ice Condos provide a convenient haven for tourists and its condo board allows short-term rentals.

Sraga told CBC News condo buildings in general, but also specifically ones that allow Airbnbs, are hard for his team to investigate and lead to fewer charges.

"We can address the noise impact, but with the use issue we're not going to be very successful if the condo board is allowing it," he said. "So we won't prioritize those necessarily compared to a private residence that's having a broader community impact."

Mark Sraga, director of investigation services for Municipal Licensing and Standards, says short-term rental enforcement will still be on a complaints basis if and when the new bylaw comes into effect. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

At the Ice Condos, Young believes most of her floor is listed on the accommodation site full-time, including her neighbouring units.

"The question of regular tenants in this building is a bit of a joke," said Young, "to the point where we find each other, we cluster together, we say, 'Oh my god, you exist.'"

Right now, Young figures she escalates a complaint to either building management or Airbnb about once a month. Two weeks ago she says she called police after a domestic violence incident next door.

Airbnb declined an interview with CBC News, but said in a statement that it "supports regulations on home sharing that protect the affordable housing supply while still letting the city and local residents realize more of the economic benefits of tourism."

Young thinks Toronto's proposed regulations would be "transformative" for her condo. But right now they're in limbo pending an appeal from Airbnb hosts that will be heard in August.

How would the city enforce short-term rental regulations?

If the city wins and the regulations are enacted, Airbnbs could only be operated through a person's primary residence for up to 180 nights a year, essentially making short-term rental investment properties illegal.

"But then the question becomes, how do you enforce that?" said Young.

Sraga told CBC News enforcement will still be on a complaints basis if and when the new bylaw comes into effect, but his team will have more tools at its disposal to make a case to lay charges and issue fines.

Those tools include doing title searches to see if a person owns more than one property to determine primary residence, checking whether they've registered with the city under the new regulations and boosted staffing.

For her part Young hopes "a playbook is somehow developed for a building like ours because we desperately need it."

With files from data journalist Inayat Singh

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