Toronto residents fed up with short-term rentals used as party houses

Toronto residents have had enough of huge parties throughout the city enabled by short-term rental sites such as Airbnb.

Pop-up parties are resurfacing debate about appropriate use of short-term rentals in the city

The facade of the Airbnb house that hosted parties in North York. The owner said that the house will no longer be used for parties. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Toronto residents have had enough of huge parties enabled by short-term rental sites such as Airbnb.

One house in North York, in particular, has prompted residents to come together to call collectively for action from city officials and their elected representatives. 

The house, in Toronto's Lawnview Drive neighbourhood, has been rented at least once a month since March 22 for large gatherings. In June, residents complained to the city four times in five days after parties were held on a Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Every time the house has been rented, residents say their otherwise quiet neighbourhood is completely disrupted. Problems include an influx of parked cars in no-parking zones, hundreds of intoxicated party guests, loud amplified music and lots of litter following the event.

Jack Dupuis, a neighbourhood resident, said it is "intolerable" that politicians and city staff have not responded to calls.

Dupuis has written to the offices of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory, local MPP Stan Cho and his Coun. John Filion. He said none of them have helped.

"I'm quite angry about that. I don't think that's right," Dupuis said. "There's something wrong with the system where you're elected… and don't help."

Councillor says there's a lack of enforceable laws

For his part, Filion said part of the problem is it's hard to know which laws could be applied to the party planners.

"You can only charge somebody with breaking a specific law, and at the moment, there's no law against obnoxious Airbnb rentals," he said.

Filion said the city had tried to take action more than a year ago by bringing in new regulations that would stop Airbnb from listing entire residences. Airbnb appealed those rules to the Ontario Municipal Board, now known as the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. 

"What I had said to the resident is, 'Isn't it ridiculous that your city government cannot pass a law that makes this illegal? It has to go through this non-elected body called the Ontario Municipal Board. The whole thing is ludicrous,'" Filion said. "This should have been made clearly illegal more than a year ago, and then we would've been able to charge people for renting their place illegally."

As it stands now, advertised parties with an entrance fee are not allowed in residential zones.

The owner of the North York property told CBC News on Tuesday that it's no longer being rented out for parties. The home is also no longer listed on Airbnb.

When asked how Airbnb tries to prevent cases like these from occurring, Lindsey Scully, an Airbnb communications representative, said: "Airbnb works with communities across the country, including Toronto, to support fair and easy-to-follow regulations that ensure a healthy home-sharing environment.

"To date, Airbnb is the only home-sharing provider that has come to the table in a meaningful way."

Scully added: "The overwhelming majority of Airbnb hosts and guests are good neighbours and respectful travellers."

The site has a tool for residents to share concerns they have about a particular listing. 

'A riot on the street'

Cavell King, a resident who lives two doors down from the North York party house, said at least 100 people attended a party on July 3.

"Basically, it was a riot on the street," King said. "The next morning, I had literally cleaned up garbage on the street. I found liquor bottles, beer bottles and air bombs. So basically they were setting off firecrackers and scaring, like, everyone." 

This Instagram post promoted a party at a short-term rental in North York. (Instagram)

When CBC News contacted the Instagram promoter of the July 3 party, the promoter responded that they simply re-post flyers but do not plan the parties themselves. 

King called Toronto police when she noticed that one of the party attendees was parked in front of a fire hydrant.

"They actually said: 'Don't worry about them blocking the hydrant because they just ram the cars to get to the fire,'" she said.

When Dupuis called the police, he said the dispatcher told him that Toronto police no longer answer noise complaints and he had to call the city. 

Filion said the city can only send bylaw enforcement officers to the scene because there is no law that can be used to charge the party planners.

"But it's very difficult to charge them," he said. "They're making a lot of noise, but as soon as somebody shows up, the noise stops so you have no noise decibels to measure and charge them with." 

With files from Natalie Nanowski and Julia Knope