Condo owners call on city to rein in Airbnb

Tensions are rising in the corridors of Toronto's condo buildings as some owners look to cash in by listing their units on short-term rental sites like Airbnb, while others are calling on the city to step in and stop them.

Transient renters treating peoples' homes like hotels, says Condo Owners Association

Some new condo buildings have no restrictions on owners renting their units short-term on websites like Airbnb. (Aaron Harris/Reuters)

Tensions are rising in the corridors of Toronto's condo buildings as some owners look to cash in by listing their units on short-term rental sites like Airbnb, while others are calling on the city to step in and stop them.

"We constantly get complaints," said Linda Pinizzotto, who is president of her downtown condo board and the head of the Toronto-based Condo Owners Association.

Pinizzotto says the constant come-and-go of Airbnb guests is turning her building into a de-facto hotel.

"They knock on a resident's door asking if they can borrow salt, they complain because they can't find coffee machines," she said.  "It's unbelievable."

It's a bomb that's going to explode down the road if we continue to allow this type of thing without proper legislation.- Linda Pinizzotto, President, Condo Owners Association

Increased traffic from short-term rentals is also leading to higher utility bills and greater wear-and-tear on common areas, according to Pinizzotto.

"These buildings were not made to be hotels, they were made to be primary residences," she said. "The value of these buildings will decrease if the maintenance fees go up too high."

"It's a bomb that's going to explode down the road if we continue to allow this type of thing without proper legislation."

'No more short term'

Toronto real-estate broker Mary-Ann Semen says she's also noticed increased frustration from condo boards and management companies.

"A lot of condominiums now, if you go into their elevators to show a property they have a sign posted, 'No more short term.  Minimum leases three or six months.'"

Semen works with potential tenants to secure long-term rentals, mostly in investor-owned condominiums.  She says while short-term sites like Airbnb are a good stop-gap measure in a hot rental market, she's seeing a backlash from property managers.

"3939 Duke of York [Blvd] in Mississauga just posted a notice in their elevators, 'Enough.  We are looking for long-term tenants,'" Semen said.

"And all your tenants have to register to get a [security] fob with management, so they will know," she said. "They want a copy of the lease to prove that individual is living there for a minimum of six months."

Clampdown imminent?

Short-term accommodation rental websites like offer several condo rental options in Toronto. (

One downtown condo owner who rents her unit on Airbnb says she is worried about a potential clampdown on what's become a cash cow, "They [the management] want every person to register, it may become impossible to continue."

The woman, who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity, said she used to rent to a long-term tenant, but switched to Airbnb in April for the money.

I used to make $100 a month [profit], now I make 15 times more.- Airbnb host

"Obviously the income has been higher," she said.  "I used to make $100 a month [profit], now I make 15 times more."

The woman said despite one bad set of guests the overall experience with short-term renters has been positive.

Advocacy group wants regulations

But it's the bad experiences that are driving owners like Pinizzotto to push for municipal regulations, such as the law that prevents owners from renting their properties for periods of less than 30 days in New York City.

Quebec recently further tightened its rules on short-term rentals after the province passed legislation in 2015 to rein in the practice.

The COA is a member of Fairbnb, which describes itself as "a national coalition concerned about the proliferation of short-term rentals in cities across Canada." It also has links with the Union for Hospitality Workers in the GTA.

Fairbnb spokesperson Thorben Wieditz says he'd like to see some kind of regulation in Toronto. "Keep with the spirit of sharing, but cut out the commercial element," he said, "and cut out this category of landlords that own multiple units and rent them out."

Legislation not the solution: Filion

But Coun. John Filion who represents the condo-dense Ward 23 says owners should solve their own problems.

"God knows how many hundreds of thousands of condo units we have across the city.  The city can't possibly police that," he said.
Coun. John Filion represents Ward 23, Willowdale, an area he says is "hugely overpopulated" with condos. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

"They all have boards of directors. They should look for what's in their powers to regulate."

Rod Escayola, a Partner with law firm Gowling WLG agrees.

They all have boards of directors.They should look for what's in their powers to regulate.- John Filion, Toronto city councillor

"The condominium corporation is the best one to come up with whatever regulation works for them and enforce them, rather than the municipality."

He says many condo corporations already have rules on the books against short-term rentals, and that it`s not difficult to enforce them.

"With respect to Airbnb, the beauty of it is that the owner or the one operating the short-term lease is actually giving you all the evidence they need, Escayola said.  It's on the website."

But Escayola does acknowledge the issue is emblematic of a struggle between two fundamental but competing rights.

"Somebody who wants to be able to do what they want in their castle, and the rest of the community who says 'your castle is in my kingdom.'"

Airbnb did not respond to CBC News' requests for comment.


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