Video of balcony chair toss sparks calls to re-examine Airbnb, balcony rules in Toronto
Airbnb has suspended a user who booked a unit at the time of the incident
There are calls to examine the rules and regulations around short-term rentals and high-rise condo living after video of a woman tossing a chair off a balcony sparked outrage around Toronto.
The alleged chair thrower, 19-year-old Marcella Zoia, turned herself in to police Wednesday morning. She's been charged with mischief endangering life, mischief damaging property under $5,000 and common nuisance.
Reports suggest that Zoia may have been in a unit rented out through Airbnb at the time of the incident.
A woman who says she checked into the same unit on that day walked past two chairs on the sidewalk in front of the condo as she arrived.
"Sure enough, I saw the viral video the next day and noticed that those were indeed the chairs that I saw on the ground," sayd Tyler Walton, who rented the unit for a birthday party.
"I could have been on the street below trying to sign into the Airbnb when it was thrown off the balcony."
In a statement to CBC Toronto, Airbnb said it has no evidence that the accused has ever been an Airbnb user, but the company has suspended the account of another guest who had a reservation at the building at the time the chair was allegedly thrown.
"We remain outraged by the blatant disregard for community safety on display in the video," said spokesperson Ben Breit in a statement.
Multi-listing Airbnbs 'pose threats'
While it has yet to be confirmed if the chairs were indeed thrown from an Airbnb rental unit, a local housing advocacy group that has taken aim at Airbnb says the case is another example of the dangers caused by the rental platform.
The group, called Fairbnb, said the unit is one of "countless" Airbnb rentals in the condo near Harbour and York Streets.
"The 'chair girl' event seems to be the latest of a string of Airbnb-related incidents that pose threats to the health and safety of Toronto's waterfront condo communities," said Fairbnb spokesperson Thorben Wieditz.
Wieditz said the unit from which the chair was tossed is one of several properties operated by a single person. He said those types of "multi-listing hosts" are at the root of most problems associated with Airbnb, since the hosts often do not pay close attention to each listing.
Fairbnb is calling on Airbnb to stop allowing users to advertise multiple properties through the service.
Calls for city to examine balcony laws
While Airbnb's policy comes under fire, others are pointing to changes to more general laws as a better solution.
"The problems we are seeing on some of these high-rises are the use of balconies and the design of the building, all approved by the city of Toronto," said Denise Lash, a lawyer specializing in condominium laws.
"The bigger question is: should the city and the province consider changes to the Ontario Building Code or other restrictions on allowing balconies in these tall high-rise structures."
She said problems related to criminal behaviour are not exclusive to Airbnb users or other short-term renters.
During a Wednesday news conference, Toronto Mayor John Tory condemned the chair-throwing incident as "unacceptable," but he did not suggest the city would consider altering its rules around balconies.
"It was grossly irresponsible behaviour that could have caused serious injury and death," Tory said. "And that that is just not something that can be tolerated."