European family moves to Toronto in long-term Airbnb. A 'loophole' got them an eviction notice midway
Published Tuesday, February 7, 2023 10:19AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 7, 2023 10:19AM EST
For a Switzerland professor contracted to work in Ontario for a year, Airbnb looked like the right option for a family of five.
Tianning Ning’s husband was hired as a visiting professor at York University, and she said it took a while to find the right place to stay – especially since they hadn’t built up Canadian credit scores and couldn’t break into the traditional rental market.
Ning said she found a long-term stay in the Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue area on Airbnb that seemed to fit the bill of what they were looking for, as it was fully furnished and close to good schools for her children.
After feeling confident about the home and the host – who Ning said was very helpful at the start – they worked out an agreement and booked a 10-month stay through Airbnb up until the end of June 2023 for $5,150 per month, before tax.
She said they moved in on Aug. 23, but on Jan. 2, they were hit with an eviction notice.
In screenshots of WhatsApp messages, viewed by CTV News Toronto, the notice said they needed to leave by Jan. 31 as the landlord needed to move back into the property with their family.
“I’m extremely angry, and still today, extremely angry. I don’t agree. We didn’t do anything wrong,” Ning said.
As per Airbnb’s guidelines, long-term guests may be able to establish rights as a tenant after a month of staying there.
“Generally, this means that local tenancy laws could protect them, and [the host] may not be able to remove them from [their] property without proceeding through required processes in court,” Airbnb’s website reads.
In Toronto, however, there are regulations for short-term rentals of less than 28 days, but not for stays that are longer than that, meaning there are fewer legal protections for those that rent for longer than a month from third-party companies like Airbnb.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords are required to provide notice at least 60 days before the termination date, which Ning said was not done in this case.
A spokesperson for Airbnb told CTV News Toronto that cancellations like Ning’s are “rare.”
“When they do happen, we’re committed to supporting them. Our customer service team is in contact with this guest providing ongoing support, including rebooking,” the statement said.
According to the company, the host had cited the alteration of the long-term stay due to personal reasons and deactivated the listing.
In a screen-recorded video Ning captured, and obtained by CTV News Toronto, the listing had gone back up but at double the cost, though the company denies that.
CTV News Toronto repeatedly tried emailing the landlord but did not receive a response.
On Jan. 31, when Ning was supposed to be evicted, Fairbnb Canada Network, an organization seeking fair regulations for short-term rental companies, held a news conference where they not only touched on what has been happening with Ning’s family, but also a potentially larger problem for Toronto at hand.
SHORT-TERM RENTAL RULES
“In Toronto, we’re increasingly seeing Airbnb hosts use the platform in this way, bypassing the city’s short-term rental bylaws for listings of less than 28 days, on the one hand, and attempting to dodge their obligations under provincial tenancy laws on the other,” Thorben Wiedtz, director of Fairbnb, said in a release.
In 2021, the City of Toronto updated its short-term rental rules, making it so that listings must be registered and be principal residences. Listings that are rented for more than 28 days are exempt from this by-law.
“For us, that was a great moment, and we were hoping to see that Airbnb would literally deactivate or delete tens of thousands of listings that were illegal under the new bylaw,” Wiedtz told CTV News Toronto.
“But much of what we saw was completely different. We looked at the data, we scraped Airbnb’s data, just before the rules were implemented and a few days after, and we saw that Airbnb had created a new category called long-term rentals of 28 days or more [..] That was a new category [that] created some new questions for us.”
“We’ve raised this issue with the city. The city’s planning and housing committee passed a motion in March of 2022 to the director of municipal licensing and standards to explore this new category, and see what is up with this loophole, and whether it needs to be addressed by the city,” Wiedtz continued, noting the report was scheduled to be published by that following April.
A spokesperson for Airbnb told CTV News Toronto its long-term stays represent “a very small fraction” of its listings.
“These stays provide guests – from travelling health care professionals to new residents looking for a permanent home – the flexibility to experience Toronto, and it’s unfortunate to see groups with hotel ties manipulate facts to attack our Host community,” an Airbnb spokesperson said.
Toronto city councillor Paula Fletcher noted in a news release on Jan. 31 that out of the 17,000 listings listed on Airbnb, more than 12,000 of them are for properties listed for more than 28 days.
“That way, Airbnb hosts avoid registering with the city and landlords appear to use this housing stock as month-to-month rentals. There is a false belief that attracting tenants through Airbnb allows landlords to evict tenants more easily. We need to ensure the 12K ‘long-term’ units sitting on Airbnb are not dodging municipal regulations or provincial laws in an affordable housing crisis,” Fletcher said.
A spokesperson for the City of Toronto said staff is aware of the roughly 12,000 Airbnb listings, and that they will be researching the impact of the medium-term market.
The city said since it does not regulate long-term rentals of 28 days or longer – and does not receive data on stays or transactions for those types of listings – it would need more time to research and collect data to fully understand the extent of its market.
Ontario NDP MPP Jessica Bell also penned a letter on Jan. 31 to ministers Steve Clark and Doug Downey, asking them to “crackdown on illegal short-term rentals.”
“Toronto has long been a battleground between investors who want to make a lot of money and renters who just want a home,” Bell wrote.
“I believe many of these short-term rentals in investment properties are violating the provincial Residential Tenancies Act. To rent these properties, a tenant does not sign the standard Ontario lease, which is required by law. [..] A landlord can’t just pressure a tenant to sign a questionable contract and wash their hands clean from provincial rental laws.”
The Short-Term Rental Update report, originally expected to come out in April 2022, will now be published by the end of the year, the city said.
Ning says she has asked the Airbnb host to provide them with an N12 form from the Landlord and Tenant Board, which is what landlords are required to use when ending their tenancy agreement if their family member requires the rental unit. But Ning says she has not heard back.
“We will defend our rights. We will follow what is possible within the law,” Ning said.
For now, Ning and her family will continue to stay at the home.