Making fast money not the only benefit of Airbnb, says host

Short term rental companies like Airbnb are cutting into the rental market according to a new report, but one user says in some cases it is saving it.

Toronto landlord says service not only boosted his income, it offered more flexibility

Amid criticism of short-term accommodation site Airbnb, one Toronto landlord describes what it's really like to be a host using the service. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Controversy continues to swirl around short-term rental site Airbnb as condo owners and realtors pressure the city to create regulations or ban the service altogether, claiming it is responsible for the erosion Toronto's rental market.

However, those who use the site have a different perspective. For them, Airbnb is challenging ideas about the way we rent and share spaces by providing unique opportunities for both landlords and travellers. 

Drake Carlyle currently rents out three apartments in his home located in the Palmerston-Little Italy district, but in May he started listing one unit on Airbnb for short-term stays. Like many Airbnb renters, his income has increased, but Carlyle said money was not the deciding factor when he made the switch.

"It was about flexibility," he told CBC's Metro Morning. "We are a family that is not from Toronto and we often have a lot of family coming in."

Airbnb allows Carlyle to use the apartment when he needs it while still renting in the interim.

So far, he says the experience has been relatively stress-free.

"There's no real hustle in terms of renting the apartment. It seems to take care of itself," he said. "It's probably most analogous to providing a hotel room. You need to provide clean sheets and towels ... and stock a few things like toiletries."

He says the majority of his guests are tourists — typically vacationing couples from Europe, Canada or the U.S. But he also gets parents visiting children in college or university looking for accommodations in the neighbourhood. In this respect, he says, Airbnb has a distinct advantage over mainstream hotels.

"We're sort of in an area that's not exactly too close to a lot of hotels ... so geography would also play a part," he said.

It's also more cost-effective for those staying in the city for longer periods of time.

It was about flexibility.- Drake Carlyle, Airbnb host

"It's nice to have a kitchen. It's nice to have a little bit of extra space," he said. "Staying in a hotel can get expensive."

However, despite the benefits for both landlord and tenant, Airbnb has received widespread criticism from realtors and condo owners who say short-term visitors disturb permanent residents and drive down building value.

It is also blamed for Toronto's decreasing rental availability.

However, had he not converted his apartment to an Airbnb unit, Carlyle said he would have had to remove it from the market altogether. He added, Airbnb is only one contributing factor.

"In an area like ours ... every house that used to be a rental apartment -- every time it's sold, without exception -- has turned into a single-family home," he explained. "That's where the money is being made."

Toronto realtors and condo owners say Airbnb is eroding the city's rental market, while hosts say it is saving it. (CBC)

One of the arguments against Airbnb is its lack of regulation. City councils in Toronto and Mississauga have felt increased pressure over the last year to ban the rental service and regulations are still being considered. Currently neither city has regulations on short-term rentals.

Earlier this month Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam told Metro Morning a total ban would be impossible to enforce, but a complaint system could help with disrespectful occupants.

"So why not work with Airbnb to have a better complaint system. Why don't we educate users as to what their rights and responsibilities are?" she said. 

Carlyle says because the units are essentially acting as pseudo-hotel rooms, landlords should be subject to the same sort of regulations hotels are.

"There's specific taxes and levies they pay so there's no reason we shouldn't be paying," he said. "But until that changes, the way it currently is, is the way it is."

In the meantime, Carlyle says he will continue using Airbnb to rent his apartment. So far the experience has been a positive one and he hasn't had trouble finding tenants, but he's waiting to see what the winter season brings before making a firm conclusion about his success.

"I'm taking this as a bit of a one-year experiment," he said. "This place is obviously not the tourist Mecca in January and February as it is now."